A Surgeon’s Lifetime
This is my first book and seems likely to be my last as I am now 88. I started the project as a memoire for my family, but soon decided that there was much that I wanted to say about change in surgery and the NHS. It is not a blood and guts story, but there is a sprinkling of surgical anecdotes. It covers my childhood and education, life as a medical student, and a long section on my 30-year consultant career. Later it describes involvement in regional and national surgical affairs and finally our adjustment to retirement.
‘See one, do one, teach one’ was the basis of my training as a surgeon in the 1960s. By the time I became a consultant, I had ample experience but had received little supervision, I was determined to improve things for my juniors. Later this led to chairmanship of the committee responsible nationally for training in general surgery.
After training in Bristol, Leicester, Derby and Sheffield, I was appointed a consultant in Leicester in 1971. Initially, my work ranged from bowel cancer to prostatectomy and breast problems. Then things changed: operations for duodenal ulcer disappeared, while new procedures, often minimally invasive, developed.
I like teaching. When the new medical school opened, I was surprised and delighted to be invited to be clinical sub dean, responsible for setting up clinical teaching.
Comprising guts, glands and arteries I enjoyed the broad scope of general surgery, including emergencies. But surgery and the NHS were changing, with technological advances and surgical innovation, while the NHS underwent repeated organizational changes. When general surgery evolved into specialties, I became a coloproctologist by day but still a generalist at night. I also served for four years as a member of the district management team and later as a clinical director, so I saw these changes from another perspective.
Meanwhile, having had three children, my wife Elisabeth had trained part-time in radiology in Sheffield and then was appointed a consultant in Leicester.
I was elected to represent the general surgeons of the region on the council of the Association of Surgeons and as regional adviser for the Royal College of Surgeons. This led to chairing the Specialist Advisory Committee responsible for training, at a time when that was being reorganised. Finally, I was elected president of the Association of Surgeons for 2000-2001.
We adapted well to retirement, both joining local arts appreciation and travelling clubs. I re-planned the layout of the large sitting room and the garage and re-designed the front garden. We travelled all over the British Isles and visited most countries in Europe initially by car then on small group tours or in little cruise ships. Our children and grandchildren (now all grown up) provide a lot of interest.