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Biographical entry Brookes, Victor Stanley (1920 - 2008)

MRCS 1943; FRCS 1949; MB ChB Birmingham 1943; LRCP 1943.

21 November 1920
16 September 2008
General surgeon


Victor Stanley Brookes was an eminent Birmingham surgeon. His main surgical work was carried out at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where he was a consultant for 25 years up until his retirement. He was a generalist in the traditional fashion with special interests in gastroenterology and colo-rectal conditions, but also made an outstanding contribution in the field of surgical training, both regionally and nationally.

He obtained an honours degree in medicine at Birmingham University in 1943 and passed his FRCS in 1949. His National Service years, from 1945 to 1948, were spent mainly in France as a consultant surgeon in the RAMC and he became commanding officer of a military hospital, rising to the rank of captain and acting lieutenant colonel.

On returning home, he resumed his surgical training in 1950 by appointment as resident surgical officer at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where he developed expertise in paediatric surgery over the next five years. After completing his registrar and senior registrar posts at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, he obtained his consultant post in general surgery, remaining there until his retirement in 1986, thus completing 36 years of surgical work at the Birmingham United Hospital.

During these years he gained a universal reputation for the proficiency of his surgical technique and the kindness and courtesy with which he treated his patients. He blossomed as a surgical teacher and his students gave open evidence of the benefits of his teaching, many of them subsequently following a surgical career; this group included many coming to Birmingham from abroad.

In addition to his surgical work, Victor was appointed by Birmingham University as a senior lecturer in surgery, giving an academic background to his work. He produced written articles and gave many lectures on topics of surgical technique, especially to the West Midlands Surgical Society, one of the earliest provincial societies of its type. Victor was also a member of the faculty board of medicine of Birmingham Medical School and took his faculty appointments seriously. For 20 years, leading up to his retirement, he was regional adviser to the College and met regularly with colleagues in London to advise on national aspects of surgical training.

For 20 years he acted as a consultant surgeon and chief medical adviser to the West Midlands Police Force, with his own department at police headquarters, where he examined and treated police of all ranks. He performed a similar role for the West Midlands Fire Service.

In retrospect, Victor’s most significant contribution to training was arguably the establishment of the senior surgical registrars rotational training scheme, the first of its kind in the country. At the time of initiation 12 senior registrar posts were established in surgery in the West Midlands at the main teaching and district hospitals, with one year at each designated hospital, providing a four-year training programme and a regional committee controlled their placement. This pattern still persists, but with flexibility and additions, as all the hospitals involved are now designated as teaching hospitals, and the scheme is reinforced by annual interviews and reports to the College. It has been extended in recent years by the advent of academic posts at senior registrar grade. Victor introduced the scheme and ran it with aplomb until he retired. A similar scheme, but more diffused, has been developed for surgical registrars. As well as providing individual guidance to senior registrars, the scheme has served to unify the regional surgical services, strengthen the relationship between university and district hospitals, and improve the surgical treatment of patients throughout the West Midlands, in addition to serving as a model for other regions. It is a fitting tribute to Victor Brookes’ foresight.

Victor Brookes was married twice. His first wife, Rita, died of cancer. They had two children, Rosemary, who predeceased him, and David. He married for a second time, to Moira.

P Gilroy Bevan

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2009 339 2996].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England