Leaving a lasting legacy for dementia research. Philip and Judy’s story


By Ed Pinches | Monday 17 October 2022

Whether it’s through the things we achieve in our lifetime or the gifts we leave behind, many dream of putting a stamp on the future and making a contribution for generations to come. And that’s exactly what Philip Small did during his career as a consultant radiologist.

Philip worked alongside the Nobel Prize winning physicist, Sir Peter Mansfield, who invented the MRI scanner, helping him test the technique for practical use.

The MRI scan has since had an important impact on the detection of the diseases that cause dementia and has helped countless people get a more accurate diagnosis.

Legacy of the MRI scanner

An MRI is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body, including the brain.

It’s the technique doctors use to look for brain shrinkage, tumours or damage following an injury or a stroke.

As Alzheimer’s disease is typically diagnosed by ruling out other causes of memory and thinking problems, such as a stroke or a brain tumour, these scans are important in the clinic.

Patterns of brain shrinkage are characteristic of different forms of dementia. In Alzheimer’s disease, for example, a part of the brain called the hippocampus is often first affected.

Using MRI scans you can see if these structures are smaller than would normally be expected, helping to make a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and allowing people to access treatments that may help with their symptoms.

Images credit: Professor John O’Brien, University of Cambridge and Newcastle University

Phillip’s son, Richard remains tremendously proud of his dad’s contribution to the development of this vital tool for medicine as well as the many other things he achieved in his career. “It’s heartening to think of the many people he helped over the years.”

Sadly, Philip passed away in 2010 with Alzheimer’s disease.

There are many ways to leave a legacy

But the family wasn’t done there. Judy Small was Philip’s wife, a dental surgeon who helped campaign for the addition of fluoride in our drinking water. She too had Alzheimer’s disease and sadly passed in January 2021.

Part of her legacy was to leave a gift in her Will, worth £20,000 to Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Gifts in Wills are crucial to ensuring life-changing research happens. And it’s through research that breakthroughs to protect future generations from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia will be made.

A lasting gift for future generations

While doctors may request an MRI for people with suspected Alzheimer’s, unfortunately these scans currently cannot conclusively show whether someone has the disease. A key part of turning the tide and preventing people passing away with diseases like Alzheimer’s is improving how we identify and diagnose people with the diseases.

Gifts in Wills to Alzheimer’s Research UK, like that from Judy, ensure research is possible, both to diagnose and to treat the disease.  Your gift could help fund research to improve brain scanning methods, leading to doctors making earlier, more accurate and timely diagnosis. Or it could help develop potential drugs towards clinical trials. Your gift could be truly legendary, helping to make a life-changing treatment available for future generations.

How do I leave my lasting gift?

People like Philip and Judy did something legendary and you can too.

A gift in your Will can protect future generations from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.

Supporting Alzheimer’s Research UK in this way, means you will be a part of driving breakthroughs, powering new treatments and improving the lives of people with dementia.

No matter the size, every gift offers hope.

You can request your free guide to find out more about these life-changing gifts by visiting alzheimersresearchuk.org/free-wills-guide or calling 01223 896 606.

By submitting a comment you agree to our comments policy.

Leave a Comment

About the author

Ed Pinches