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Biographical entry Ellis, Frank Groves (1925 - 2003)

MRCS 1949; FRCS 1953; MB BS London 1950; MS 1960; LRCP 1949.

12 September 1925
10 August 2003
Renal transplant surgeon and Vascular surgeon


Frank Groves Ellis was a renal transplant and vascular surgeon at Guy's Hospital. He was born on 12 September 1925 into a long-standing farming family. After grammar school, he entered Guy's medical school in 1943, qualifying in 1949.

He was an anatomy demonstrator in 1952. He gained a consultant post at the Royal Northern Hospital London as a general surgeon, gaining particular experience in oesophageal, breast and urinary surgery, but in 1969 was appointed as a renal transplant and vascular surgeon at Guy's Hospital. His first renal transplant at Guy's was in fact done in Brighton. In that early period transfer of the donor kidney was not easy, so he took the whole surgical team, with the recipient patient, to the south coast in his car. The operation was successful.

Further developments made his department internationally renowned and he made countless working trips to the Middle East and built up a multitude of foreign connections. At one period, due to a shortage of established anaesthetists, he personally financed the employment of one to help lower his long waiting list.

He genuinely enjoyed teaching students: he could be abrasive at times, but never talked down to them, or to junior colleagues. He did on occasion talk down to many of his seniors, which displeased a minority. However, this was usually regarded as professional tactlessness rather than intentional rudeness. He was particularly helpful to new consultants to Guy's. He was a staunch friend to his juniors.

Alongside this thrusting personality was a man who was courteous with patients, NHS or private, who took careful case histories, with diligent note and record keeping, together with a comprehensive pre-operative examination and investigations. He was not a committee man, so did not rely on their decisions and usually did what he had decided to do. This undoubtedly did upset the committees, but benefited his patients.

Frank belonged to many surgical societies and was a fellow of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland. The Lettsomian lecture he gave to the Medical Society of London in 1975 was entitled 'Organ transplantation'. He was elected president of the society in 1978. In 1961 he was Hunterian Professor of our College.

He published many papers on vascular surgical emergencies and angioplasty, and wrote a chapter on acute and chronic renal failure in Surgery by Kirk et al (London, Pitman).

His wife and children endured with him the difficulties of the last phase of his life. He bore this period with great courage. He died on 10 August 2003.

Norman Kirby

Sources used to compile this entry: [gktgazette January 2004].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England