It is with great sadness that we share the news of the recent passing of two BRITSpA friends, both world known experts in SpA and enthesitis and individuals of great human quality: Professor Ignazio Olivieri and Professor Mike Benjamin
Professor Ignazio Olivieri was a past President of the Italian Society for Rheumatology, and an internationally re-known rheumatologist who had a long standing interest in all aspects of SpA and enthesitis and Behçet’s Disease. He published extensively in these areas, in many occassions with his wife Angela Padula, also a rheumatologist, as a co-author. Ignazio was involved in the development of classification criteria and therapeutic guidelines in AS and PsA and organized many scientific meetings in his home town of Matera. He fought an incurable illness over the last couple of years, during which time he continued working and teaching.
Aside from a great professional he was a person of great humanity and sensibility and he will be sorely missed by the rheumatology community.
Professor Michael Benjamin was an Emeritus Professor at Cardiff University (UK) where he held the position of Professor of Musculoskeletal Biology and Sports Medicine Research. He published over 170 full length articles during his career, the majority relating to connective tissue research and in particular the enthesis. His first article on the enthesis appeared in 1986 in the Journal of Anatomy and was simply called ‘The histology of tendon attachments in man’. It was through this work that he started a long and fruitful collaboration with Professor Dennis McGonagle from the University of Leeds which spanned over 15 years and contributed many observations to the pathogenesis of enthesitis and SpA.
Mike was an anatomist with a wide knowledge of both gross and microscopic anatomy that came from decades of teaching to generations of medical students. Mike’s major contribution to enthesis biology were his deep knowledge and insight of normal enthesis architecture. His observations into the structure-function relastionship at the enthesis led him and Dennis to develop the concept of an ‘enthesis organ’ which enabled clinicians to view enthesopathies in a broader context than hitherto.
Mike was awarded an honorary MD in 1998 by the University of Linkoping, Sweden for his contributions to sports medicine research and his excellence as a scientific teacher. In 2001, he was awarded the Messner prize for Sports Medicine Research and in 2009 he received the Anatomical Society Medal for his research. Mike was the founding Director of the Wales Virtual Institute of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences and a former Head of the Connective Tissue Biology Research Group at Cardiff University. He acted as both Treasurer and Meetings Secretary for the Anatomical Society and has been a visiting Professor at the AO Research Institute in Davos, Switzerland. He served on the editorial board of several academic journals and is widely regarded as a leading world authority on tendons and ligaments. This is evidenced by the large number of invited talks and keynote lectures he has given at numerous major conferences all over the world.
Mike was looking forward for many years to retiring to his renovated farm house in the Welsh border and to continuing playing competitive international senior tennis. These wishes were unfortunately cut short by illness. He leaves his wife and son, and will be missed by many in the anatomy and rheumatology research communities.