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Interests, specialties and background


Professor McKay is a leading surgeon specializing in pancreatic and biliary disease, based in Glasgow Royal Infirmary. He has more than 25 years’ experience in the clinical management and research of pancreatic and biliary disease and is an internationally recognized expert in this specialist field.



Prof McKay spent his early years in Glasgow, attending Busby Primary School and then Williamwood High School. He then finished his secondary education in Dunoon, where he was Head Boy of Dunoon Grammar School in 1981-2. Graduating from University of Glasgow in 1987, Prof McKay completed basic surgical training in the West of Scotland and after passing the FRCS exam in 1990 spent two years in full-time research investigating new treatments in acute pancreatitis. This research led to important insights into why this disease causes lung and other organ failure and ultimately to a series of clinical and scientific studies supported by over £1million in funding. This research carried on throughout his subsequent surgical training as Lecturer and Senior Registrar, initially at Glasgow’s Western Infirmary and latterly within the upper gastrointestinal unit at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. During this time, Prof Mckay trained in complex upper gastrointestinal cancer surgery but also in advanced endoscopy and complex laparoscopic surgery.

In 1998, he was awarded the Association of Surgeons Gold Medal as the outstanding candidate in the intercollegiate exam (FRCS gen-surg).


In 1998, at the age of just 34, Prof McKay was appointed Senior Lecturer and Consultant Surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and working closely with colleagues, Prof Clem Imrie and Mr Ross Carter, was instrumental in creating the specialist pancreaticobiliary unit there, now serving the West of Scotland population. He was an early advocate of specialist surgical practice and from an early stage in his consultant career focused entirely on the management of pancreatic and biliary disorders with the aim of improving outcomes, particularly after major surgery.


In 1999, Prof McKay was fortunate to spend one year as Associate Professor working in the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong with Professors Sydney Chung and James Lau. This unit has led innovation in therapeutic endoscopy and has an unparalleled reputation in ground-breaking clinical trials. Here he trained in endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), a procedure at that time not available in the West of Scotland and furthered his experience in biliary endoscopy (ERCP). He returned to Glasgow in 2000 and over the next two years secured funding to establish an EUS service in Glasgow. This service has now grown to be one of the largest in the UK, performing more than 1000 procedures every year.



Prof McKay has a long-standing interest in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. He has contributed many book chapters to undergraduate and postgraduate texts and is a frequent invited speaker at national and international meetings. He was a mentor in the Pancreas 2000 programme, an international initiative led by the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Stockholm aiming to develop the clinical, research and leadership skills of aspiring European gastroenterologists. He has trained many of the consultant surgeons in the West of Scotland in gallbladder surgery and management of pancreatic and biliary disease. He organises and contributes to postgraduate training courses, particularly in EUS and has led the installation of state of the art audiovisual teaching facilities in Glasgow Royal Infirmary linked to the endoscopy suite.


Over 20 years as a consultant surgeon, Prof McKay has been at the forefront of developments in minimally-invasive and endoscopic approaches to pancreaticobiliary disease. He and his colleagues were the first to describe the percutaneous approach to pancreatic necrosis. He was one of the first in the UK to develop EUS as a tool to aid endoscopic management of pancreatic fluid collections. During this time he has seen his department grow to serve almost half of Scotland’s population and further develop its reputation as a specialist referral unit for benign and malignant pancreatic and biliary disease.

Prof McKay was the Lead Clinician for the National Managed Clinical Network for HPB cancer until 2015, leading the implementation of national audit reporting and the development of guidelines on management of cancer of liver, biliary tree and pancreas. He has been a member of other national and international guideline committees supporting management of pancreatitis, pancreatic cysts and gastrointestinal bleeding.


Since 2012, Prof McKay has led the implementation of a new management protocol for pancreatic cancer, involving development of “fast track” clinics, early biopsy and increasing use of a “chemotherapy first” or neoadjuvant approach. This approach is increasingly common in other cancer types but has been slow to be adopted in pancreatic cancer. Currently, he is working with the team led by Prof Andrew Biankin at Glasgow University to develop a precision medicine approach to pancreatic cancer. This team has recently been awarded major grant funding to take forward this approach in Glasgow and other centres in the UK.

Since 2015 Prof McKay has been Clinical Director for Surgery with responsibility for clinical leadership within general surgery, urology and endoscopy. He completed the Leading for the Future programme in 2017 and is proud to be given the opportunity to lead his service through a period of unprecedented challenge.

In 2017, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to research and teaching, he was awarded the position of Honorary Professor by the University of Glasgow.