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Biographical entry Wood, Richard Frederick Marshall (1943 - 2003)

MRCS and FRCS 1972; MB ChB Glasgow 1967; MD 1976; FRCS Glasgow 1972; LRCP 1972.

6 January 1943
Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire, UK
11 April 2003
General surgeon


As professor of surgery at the University of Sheffield, Richard Wood was an academic surgeon who was recognised internationally in the fields of transplantation and vascular surgery. He was a founding fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (1998), a founding member of the British Transplantation Society, council member of the Vascular Surgical Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1990 to 1998) and secretary of the Surgical Research Society (1986 to 1990). He was also secretary, councillor and vice-president of the International Transplantation Society. He served as a member of the management committee of the UK Transplant Service (the national coordinating organisation for transplantation). As an accomplished surgeon he was always totally committed to the care and welfare of patients in his charge.

Richard Wood was born in Cheshire, but spent the majority of his formative years in Scotland. He studied medicine at the University of Glasgow, following which were a series of hospital appointments in Glasgow. The award of the ‘Medical News’ essay prize for the design of his own medical curriculum in 1966 set the scene for his life-long commitment to the teaching of medical undergraduates. Following his basic surgical training in Scotland, when he was a member of a team establishing a kidney transplantation programme in Glasgow, he gained his higher surgical training as a senior registrar in Leicester. He then helped to set up a kidney transplantation programme, for which he assumed day-to-day responsibility on his appointment to a senior lectureship at the University of Leicester in 1978. His special interest in kidney transplantation was further developed following a six-month research fellowship at Harvard medical school in Boston, when he was appointed clinical reader in surgery with (now Sir) Peter Morris at the University of Oxford in 1981.

Richard Wood was appointed to the chair of surgery at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, in 1994. He expanded the vascular surgical practice and introduced innovative clinical work on the use of lasers for unblocking blood vessels in patients with atherosclerosis. He also assumed directorship of the renal transplantation programme. The proposed re-organisation of the medical schools in London with its attendant uncertainty prompted him to move to the University of Sheffield in 1994. He was responsible for coordinating the introduction of a unified vascular service for the city and at the time of his retirement had been director of the Sheffield Vascular Institute since its inception in 1995. In 1997, the Institute was the first winner of the Hospital Doctor ‘Surgical Team of the Year’ competition.

Although kidney transplantation had been performed for a number of years, effective, coordinated clinical programmes were still in their infancy when Richard Wood first became interested in the field in 1968. The potent immunosuppressants that provide the mainstay of current anti-rejection treatment had yet to be introduced, as did better techniques for identifying the development of rejection. He became interested in the immunology of the rejection response and presented some of his work at the inaugural meeting of the British Transplantation Society in 1972. He was awarded an MD for his research work. His interests in transplantation immunology continued throughout his career, and it was during his time at St Bartholomew’s Hospital that he became interested in the field of small bowel transplantation. He conceived and organised the first international symposium on the subject in 1989. This biennial series of symposia continues to thrive, and the eighth meeting was dedicated to his memory. He was involved in the first isolated small bowel transplantation from a live-related donor performed in the UK at Leeds in February 1995.

Richard Wood was a prolific writer who had published more than 200 scientific and clinical papers in the medical literature, as well as numerous chapters in medical and scientific books. His clinical handbook on renal transplantation published in 1983 is always at hand and he co-edited the first comprehensive text on small bowel transplantation published in 1993.

His interest in small bowel transplantation continued until his retirement. Latterly, he also became interested in the capacity of exercise to improve the clinical status of patients with peripheral vascular disease using funding provided by the British Heart Foundation.

Richard Wood was a committed surgeon-scientist and was a great source of inspiration and motivation for clinical trainees. His passion for academic surgery was boundless and his enthusiasm infectious. He took great pride in the progression of his former protégés, and always followed their developing careers with great interest. Despite his demanding career, he served in the Royal Naval Reserve both as a seaman officer and as a surgeon lieutenant commander with a reserve decoration. He was a devoted husband and father and as a passionate sailor, spent many holidays cruising in the Western Isles with his wife, Christine, and their two sons, Douglas and Alastair.

Richard Wood’s legacy lies in his two sons and in the countless clinical and scientific trainees with whom he worked. It is a great pity that countless others will not now benefit from his expertise and wise counsel.

Graham Pockley

The Royal College of Surgeons of England