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Biographical entry Shepherd, Rolf Carter (1926 - 2010)

FRCS 1955; MB BChir Cambridge 1950; MChir 1960.

8 June 1926
Cardiff, Wales, UK
22 July 2010
Poole, UK
General surgeon


Rolf Carter Shepherd was a general surgeon with an interest in vascular surgery. He established the peripheral vascular service for Bournemouth, Dorset and Jersey in the early 1960s and for 15 years ran this service single-handed. He was born in Cardiff on 8 June 1926, where his father, Charles Woolley Shepherd, was a general practitioner. Both his paternal and maternal grandfathers were also doctors. His mother, Augot Wishman, was Norwegian by birth. He was educated first at Brean House Preparatory School in Weston-super-Mare, and from there won a scholarship to Epsom College, where he excelled, winning a major open scholarship to read botany at Caius College, Cambridge, in 1944. At Caius he transferred to read natural sciences and then proceeded to St Thomas' Hospital Medical School, London, for his clinical studies, graduating MB BChir in 1950.

After house jobs at St Thomas' and the Rowley Bristow Hospital, Pyrford, he enlisted as a junior surgical specialist in the RAMC for his National Service. This was spent in Singapore and Malaya. Returning to civilian life, he worked at High Wycombe and Shoreham-by-Sea before passing his FRCS and obtaining a registrar post back at St Thomas'. He was soon spotted by John Kinmonth and was recruited to the surgical professorial unit, where peripheral vascular surgery was in its infancy. He was a lecturer in surgery for three years, before spending a year as a fellow in vascular surgery at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Boston, working with Richard Warren. On his return to St Thomas' he became a senior surgical registrar, during which time he passed the Cambridge MChir, and then was appointed as a resident assistant surgeon. This was a notoriously busy post, the incumbent being resident seven days a week and responsible for all emergency surgical admissions while acting independently as a consultant.

In 1962, against strong competition, he was appointed as a consultant surgeon with an interest in peripheral vascular surgery to Bournemouth and East Dorset district, working principally at Poole Hospital. Before his appointment there was no vascular surgery in the area. Rolf quickly established a vascular service, which within a year encompassed Jersey, the whole of Dorset and parts of Wiltshire. As a single-handed vascular surgeon these were years of an enormous workload, with many night calls and long operating lists. In theatre he was tireless and exceedingly popular with the nursing staff, all of whom were keen to scrub for him such was his excellent technique and reputation for good results. In 1968 he established a dedicated varicose vein unit, which treated up to 1,000 patients in some years, many by injection sclerotherapy.

For 10 years between 1972 and 1981 he was a College surgical tutor and in 1972 became a clinical teacher in surgery to the University of Southampton. He was an enthusiastic and charismatic teacher and much enjoyed this aspect of his work. He took his part in local hospital administration and also in the wider surgical world through his membership of the Vascular Surgical Society, the Peripheral Vascular Club, the South West Vascular Surgeons' Group and the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland. He was also a keen member of the Grey Turner Surgical Club.

In retirement he was able to spend more time pursuing the many interests he had outside of surgery. He was an accomplished pianist, playing in a trio and a quartet, a keen and proficient sailor of small boats, a highly skilled gardener with a special talent for garden design (he achieved a City and Guilds award in this subject) and was also a competent golfer and shot. Above all, he was a devoted family man, happily married to Joy, née Paterson, an artist, for 49 years. They had three sons, Charles (a submariner in the Royal Navy), Christian (a smallholder) and Dominic (an artist). Of relatively small stature but with a very big heart, Rolf Shepherd was a man with a zest for life, an enthusiast for everything he did and a true and much loved friend of so many. He died on 22 July 2010, aged 84, in Poole Hospital after a fall at home.

Sir Barry Jackson

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2010 341 5566, Mrs Joy Shepherd and personal knowledge].

The Royal College of Surgeons of London