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Biographical entry Vellacott, Keith David (1948 - 2007)

MBE 2007; MRCS and FRCS 1972; MB BS London 1972; DCH 1975; DM 1981; LRCP 1972.

25 February 1948
Tavistock, Devon, UK
9 October 2007
General surgeon


Keith Vellacott was a consultant surgeon at Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport. He was born in Tavistock, Devon, on 25 February 1948, the son of Douglas Hugh Vellacott, a surgeon and a fellow of the College, and Lorraine Freda Tibbs. From Kelly College, Devon, Keith followed his father and grandfather to the London Hospital, where he qualified in 1972.

He was a house surgeon to John Blandy in the urology department at the London, and a house physician in paediatrics. He then became a casualty officer and a demonstrator in anatomy at Bristol Royal Infirmary, where he went on to the senior house officer rotation, from which he passed the FRCS.

After a year as registrar in general surgery at Cheltenham, he spent two years in Nottingham, where he worked with Jack Hardcastle on the development of flexible fibreoptic sigmoidoscopy (publishing his results in 1981) and played a major role in the ground-breaking study of screening for carcinoma of the colon, for which he was awarded the Patey prize of the Surgical Research Society in 1980.

He returned to Bristol as a senior registrar in 1981. After a period as locum consultant in Gloucester, he was appointed as a consultant surgeon to the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport in 1986, becoming honorary senior lecturer in surgery there in 1997. By now an expert and accomplished endoscopist, Keith introduced flexible colonoscopy and endoscopic retrograde cholangiography to Newport, as well as laparoscopic cholecystectomy, and continued his work, now on a national basis, in the screening for colorectal cancer. He organised undergraduate teaching and was appointed clinical director.

In 1973 Keith married Jinette, a nurse. They had two sons, Darren (who predeceased him) and Guy, and a daughter, Adele. Keith was, like his father, a man of quiet charm and serious demeanour, who was highly respected by his collegues. His hobbies included sailing, badminton, model-making and reading, and he played an active role in the St Woolos Rotary Club.

By a strange irony, in 1999 he himself was found to have carcinoma of the colon, and over the next eight years underwent five successive resections, in spite of which he returned with undiminished energy to his work. His outstanding contributions were recognised by the award of the MBE in 2007, but sadly he died in harness, before he could be invested with his insignia.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1981 283 1583-5; BMJ 2008 336 51].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England