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Pioneering Liver Unit founder awarded CBE in New Year's Honours

Professor Deirdre Kelly honoured with CBE

A pioneering professor at Birmingham Children’s Hospital who set up its world renowned Liver Unit and helped save thousands of lives has been honoured with a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list.

Professor Deirdre Kelly set up the specialist paediatric liver unit in 1989. Since then it has grown from just two beds to one of the busiest units in the world.

The multi-disciplinary team she developed pioneered the UK’s first ever infant liver transplantation in 1989 and over the last 26 years more than 900 liver transplantation operations have been carried out at the hospital.

Based on a philosophy that focuses on children and their families, not just their disease, she has helped transform rates for young people surviving transplant operations from 40% in 1989 to around 90% today, many of whom are now young adults.

Professor Kelly, who now leads a team of more than 50 physicians, surgeons, nurses and allied health professionals, also led on the first ever infant liver and small bowel transplantation in 1993.

She is still at the forefront of research to advance diagnosis and treatment using genetic technology to screen and diagnose liver conditions, making it quicker to treat children than ever before.

Professor Kelly, Consultant Paediatric Hepatologist  and Founding Director of Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s Liver Unit, said:

“When I received the news I was both delighted and honoured. It was totally unexpected but I’m thrilled as it is a wonderful recognition of the dedicated and compassionate work of Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s Liver Unit, which has transformed children’s lives.

“I receive many letters from young people and families whom we have cared for. I am often invited to weddings or parties to mark their achievements as they grow up, which is both fantastic and emotional.

“There have been many advances over the years but due to developments in genetic diagnostics there’s a real opportunity to make things even better by offering personalised treatment for children, so the future is very exciting.”

To improve outcomes for children with liver disease Professor Kelly has actively disseminated her scientific and clinical work in more than 500 publications, eight books and teaches regularly to share her knowledge, particularly in developing countries.

A recognised leader in the field of paediatric hepatology her success in improving treatment for young people is respected across the globe.

In addition to her busy schedule at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Professor Kelly, a mother of two and a grandmother, is also on the General Medical Council, a non-executive director at the Health Research Authority, Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands and a Professor of Paediatric Hepatology at the University of Birmingham.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital Chairman, Dame Christine Braddock, said:

“This is fantastic and well-deserved recognition for the tremendous pioneering work Professor Kelly has been involved with over many years, which has continually pushed the boundaries of healthcare.

“We are delighted she has been recognised in this way and are very proud that so many children have benefitted from her passion, skill, and knowledge here at our hospital.”

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