Imperial College London

"A remarkable man" — Remembering the life and career of Professor Justin Mason

by

Professor Justin Mason

The Imperial community pays tribute to Professor Justin Mason, who died in May 2022 at the age of 61 years.

Justin Mason was Professor of Vascular Rheumatology, Co-Head of the Cardiovascular Division at the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI), and Co-Director of the Centre of Excellence in Vasculitis Research at Imperial College London. Justin also held an Honorary Consultant position in Rheumatology and Medicine at Imperial College NHS Trust.

Justin joined Imperial in 1997 as a Clinical Research Fellow, after completing his medical degree at Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School and subsequent clinical training in rheumatology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School.

Over his 25 years at Imperial, he established himself as a leader within the field of vascular sciences. Justin was a highly respected academic, a valued leader at the NHLI, and a renowned rheumatologist specialising in Takayasu arteritis and large vessel vasculitis.

Colleagues at Imperial have not only praised Justin's outstanding academic work but paid tribute to his kindness and generosity. His life has made a lasting impact on the College, wider community and hundreds of patients.

'Immense contribution to rheumatology'

Tributes for Justin have been paid from far and wide and a selection are included below:

“His academic achievements speak for themselves. He has to be regarded as one of the most productive and capable clinical investigators of our generation in the field, and his shoes will be very hard to fill academically.”  – Professor Kevin Davies, Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

“Justin was simply inspirational. Starting as a Senior House Officer on the Rheumatology team at the Hammersmith in 1996 was one of the more intimidating experiences of my career, but Justin made it a transformational experience for me. He embodied the passion, enthusiasm, intelligence, compassion and kindness that makes the very best clinical academics. Justin kept up the spirits of his team, ensuring that we grew and giggled in equal measure.”­ – Professor Rustam Al-Shahi Salman, University of Edinburgh.

Wearing his sparkling intellect lightly, Justin was a wonderful companion, leader and mentor with an obvious desire to help people achieve their best – and almost always seen with a smile. Our paths have intertwined in the vascular biology research community over the years since I had the privilege of examining his PhD just over 25 years ago. Justin will continue to be sorely missed by his colleagues but remain an inspiration to them.” – Professor Jeremy Pearson, British Heart Foundation / King's College London.

Justin photographed in his lab in 2010“Justin was and will always be a total inspiration to me and my career. Like so many other clinicians and scientists, he has graciously helped to fulfil their goals. I worked closely with Justin and his research team at Imperial for the past five years and it was an absolute pleasure.” – Dr Jason Tarkin, University of Cambridge.

“I was very privileged to have known Justin as a towering figure in the rheumatology and Vasculitis firmament.” – Prof Richard Watts, University of East Anglia.

“Justin was one of the nicest people I have ever known: kind, generous and always able to spend time with you, and all in addition to being a superb clinician-scientist. He was a true devotee to the vasculitis cause and a world leader in clinical and scientific research into large vessel vasculitis in particular. I also miss our fond discussions around one of the great pastimes in his and my life - fishing.” Mr David Scott, Leeds NHS Trust.

'Major influence on cardiovascular research in the UK'

Several tributes have been paid from funding bodies and charities that Justin had worked with over the years:

“Justin was an outstanding Chair for the BHF Projects Grants Committee, delivering his role not only with wisdom, energy and enthusiasm but with a great sense of humour and fun. He had a major influence on cardiovascular research in the UK. From the messages I have received from members of the Committee and others at the BHF, I know how much he was admired by everyone he interacted it.” Professor Nilesh Samani, British Heart Foundation.

The trustees and members of Vasculitis UK are saddened at the loss of Prof Mason. Our small community will be poorer without him. Vasculitis UK is grateful for his support and work over the years.Dorothy Ireland, Vasculitis UK.

“Justin was an outstanding clinician and scientist who himself had links with the Trust through the Kennedy Institute. Colleagues will remember him as a wise, thoughtful and supportive man who cared deeply for his subject, his patients and those he worked and interacted with.” - The Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research.

“The Versus Arthritis charity should be very proud of their support for Justin's stellar career and he, in turn, repaid them amply through giving his time to committees, interview panels and peer review. I was honoured to attend Justin’s inaugural lecture at Imperial in 2014. What shone through was his dedication to his patients, his ready acknowledgement of his past and present research group members and many research collaborators, and the love and inspiration of his family”  – Liz Waterman, Versus Arthritis

Professor Mason's inaugural lecture, 'A journey from East Acton to East Africa'.

Professor Mason's inaugural lecture, 'A journey from East Acton to East Africa'.

'Thank you for everything you did for us' - tributes from the patient community

Justin had a specialist interest in a rare type of vasculitis called Takayasu’s arteritis (TA). His legacy will live on through the thousands of patients affected by vasculitis whose lives are improved as a result of his care and research:

“Professor Mason was the best doctor I have had in my life. He knew me and my condition inside out. All doctors had said my chance of having a baby with my condition was going to be very low, however, Professor Mason always gave me hope and courage. Today I have two healthy, beautiful children.” – Patient.

“I have Takayasu's Arteritis and was referred to Professor Mason in 2014. The first time we met, he put me at ease and was so knowledgeable and dedicated to his field. I always looked forward to our appointments as he had a warm aura and a smile on his face.” – Patient.

"Thank you for everything you did for us. Justin's care, consideration and good humour were amazing. He fought for inclusion in trials and was forever patient with me when I had questions. There are not enough words to describe our appreciation for all he did and the time and memories we have been able to have as a direct result of his care. I know how much Justin did for the TA community, his patients, his colleagues and research." – Patient.

The ultimate role model 

Colleagues past and present have noted that Justin was an extraordinary mentor and many benefited from his support and guidance over the years:

“I learnt so much from him as he helped me to navigate the world of management in academia. Justin was always kind, supportive and the ultimate role model. His humility and collaborative approach is something I will never forget. He was a rare breed of clinical academic who knew how to make sure that everyone in the room felt included and listened to at all times.” Dr Rasha Al-Lamee, Imperial.

“He was an incredible mentor with a gift for nurturing people. His encouraging and positive advice to persevere despite a lack of initial success and his willingness to share his wisdom and knowledge spurred me on. His friendly, positive, humble and humorous manner made every interaction a pleasure.” Dr Brian Halliday, Imperial.

“I had the privilege of being one of Professor Mason’s registrars. Not only did he teach me an invaluable amount but he showed me just how far one person’s kindness could go. He led by example and showed immense compassion to his patients as well as other colleagues no matter how junior.” Dr Japna Satara, Imperial NHS. 

Humble and always smiling

Colleagues paid tribute to Justin’s warm nature:

“Justin had mastered the art of humbleness, such that he never made others uncomfortable. Amusingly, he always gave the impression that he had 'only just scraped in' to the fellowships and senior posts that he found himself in. The virtue of not taking oneself or others too seriously is not valued enough in academia. Justin brightened up all of our lives and his loss leaves a big gap.” Professor Shiranee Sriskandan, Imperial.

“He always had an amusing story which was invariably accompanied by a wicked chuckle. He was a brilliant academic, an outstanding clinician and a good friend who has been taken from us too soon.” Dr Michael Naughton.

A passion for fishing, nature and hockey

Outside the workplace, Justin was fond of fishing and playing sports:

“We first met in medical school back in 1980 and became close friends, sharing a passion for sport and dry fly-fishing. Justin was light years ahead of us in both intellect, talent and dedication. His dedication to perfection helped all of us through tough times and exams at medical school. He was a very talented dry fly fisherman from whom I learned the art of chalk stream mayfly fishing, he was also a gifted sportsman at both cricket and hockey and probably anything else he put his mind to!” – Dr Peter Shaw.

“Justin was quite an adept hockey player and I certainly recall the occasional hobble into clinic after a clash on the pitch the previous weekend! He was a truly fantastic clinician and scientist. He was always kind, polite and courteous, no matter how busy he was.” Dr Alastair Hepburn, Western Sussex Hospitals. 


The Professor Justin Mason Memorial Fund has been established in his honour. The proceeds will be used to support and encourage future researchers in vascular sciences. 

An online memorial board has been set up for those who knew Justin to share their reflections.

Reporter

Ellyw Evans

Ellyw Evans
National Heart & Lung Institute

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 7769
Email: ellyw.evans15@imperial.ac.uk

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