BRITSpA has just learnt of the sad passing of Dr John Moll earlier on in the year. Dr Moll will always be remembered, together with Professor Verna Wright as the originators of the Spondyloarthritis concept. Their seminal work and observations paved the way that allowed the study and growing interest in this fascinating group of diseases and the rheumatology community owe a great deal to them both.
Philip Helliwell, from the University of Leeds, who trained with both Drs Moll and Wright remembers him: “John was a true Yorkshire gentleman, born in Leeds. His father was a physician at the Leeds General Infirmary at a time when this was a very prestigious position. John used to delight in telling me of the times he was picked up from school by his father’s Rolls Royce! He went to Oxford for his medical degree but later returned to Leeds to work with Verna Wright. This partnership proved very productive resulting in the seminal paper on psoriatic arthritis and also, perhaps the less well known, seminal work on the spondyloarthropathies (pictured here). The book is extremely scholarly and details carefully the evidence for the spondyloarthropathy concept, and for the diseases within this remit. Many of the illustrations in this book were done by hand by John. Indeed, he also illustrated both his MD and PhD theses – the latter amounting to two huge volumes. This collaboration, and these two theses, sadly were almost the last publications from John who had taken a non-academic post in nearby Sheffield where he worked the rest of his professional life. After retirement he enjoyed the weekly shoot with his brother in East Yorkshire, and continued to draw and illustrate – a talent he had inherited from his Italian mother. He worked on a history of the Heberden Society and, more recently, an illustrated conceptual model of psoriatic arthritis.
Latterly he came ‘back into the fold’ and was prominent in Naples, at the Update Meetings organised by Rafaele Scarpa, and was the recipient of the inaugural Verna Wright Procida award in 2008. He continued to demonstrate his sharp intellectual powers, and attention to detail in this field, and his continuing interest in psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. He played a significant role in GRAPPA starting with the meeting in Leeds in 2008: no one will forget the award ceremony for the fellows at the GRAPPA annual meeting in Naples in 2011! We have now lost the second member of this mighty duo – who will forget Moll and Wright, and all they did for this disease we now have adopted. Verna Wright would have been delighted at what we are achieving in this field today. We all know that John concurred. We have lost a scholar and a gentleman”.
Dr John Moll receiving the Inaugural Verna Wright Award in 2008, Naples, Italy