The Brownlee Centre is named after Dr John Brownlee who was born on 21 June 1868 in Rutherglen. Originally a student of mathematics and natural philosophy at the University of Glasgow he graduated with first class honours in 1889. He then went on to study medicine and qualified as a doctor in 1897. By 1914 he had established a reputation as a public health officer and an expert in infectious diseases.
Little is known of John Brownlee’s personal life. He was described as a likeable, somewhat eccentric, man who had various quirks that endeared him to his friends. He died suddenly from bronchopneumonia in 1927 aged 59 years. In 1951 at Ruchill hospital, the initial site of HIV care in Glasgow, a Research Laboratory was named after him to honour his work on infectious diseases. The hospital was closed in 1998 when the Brownlee Centre opened at Gartnavel General Hospital.
The Brownlee Centre officially opened on the 22nd of June 1998 at a time when combination therapy had radically changed the outlook and life expectancy for people living with HIV. However, planning took place three years before this, at a time when there was little effective treatment for HIV and most people still died from their infection. As a result the out-patient department was designed to manage a maximum of about 400 HIV+ patients at any one time.
Since 1996 treatment has become very effective and the number of deaths related to HIV in the UK, and Glasgow, is very small. Now there are approximately 1600 people attending the Brownlee Centre for HIV care. So if you ever find yourself thinking the waiting room seems a bit small, then it’s worthwhile considering why.