Obituary: Life of Professor David Hadden has left a lasting mark

Professor David Hadden
Professor David Hadden

A service was held during the week in memory of one of the Province’s leading medical minds.

Professor David Hadden died on February 26, aged 77, after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer just over one year earlier.

Despite this crushing news, the late professor had gone on to research and write two works: one on the history of the Royal Victoria Hospital’s metabolic unit, the other on his own rather remarkable family history.

He was part of a dynasty of doctors spanning five generations.

His great-grandfather had treated victims of the potato famine in his native Co Cork, and his grandfather was later said to have been shipwrecked on Rathlin Island while working as a doctor on a passing vessel –accounting for the family’s move to the north of the island.

Today his son, Dr Robert Hadden, is working as a neurologist in London.

Born in Portadown on May 24, 1936, David Hadden was educated at Campbell College and then later at Queen’s University, before going on to research endocrinology (the branch of medicine concerning hormones and glands) at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore.

Along with others on his scholarship scheme, he was selected to go and visit the White House, and ended up shaking the hand of President John F Kennedy.

He did further research work at the Infantile Malnutrition Research Unit in Kampala, Uganda, then later at the University of Cambridge.

By 1967, he had been appointed Consultant Physician at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital’s metabolic unit, and was later accorded the title of Honorary Professor of Endocrinology at Queen’s. 

His research accomplishments included setting up studies on the links between diet and type-2 diabetes.

He was also among the early proponents of using hormones to treat children with growth problems, and some of his work was published in the highly-prestigious scientific journal Nature.

Despite the international reputation had developed, he remained friendly and approachable,

He retired several years ago.

In 1967 he had married fellow doctor Diana Martin, who worked for many years in the Royal’s A&E.

In 2001, the couple embarked on a plan to make linen from scratch.

This saw them grow flax in a field near Saintfield, which was ultimately spun into linen that formed tablecloths, napkins and waistcoats.

He was also a governor of Victoria College, Belfast, for many years.

A practising Methodist, he was cremated and a service held for him at St Bartholomew’s, Stranmillis, on Monday, March 3.

He is survived by his wife Diana and their three children – Robert, Katharine and Emily, and seven grandchildren.