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Biographical entry Bates, Grant James Edward Mills (1953 - 2011)

FRCS 1985; BSc London 1975; BCh Oxon 1978.

7 June 1953
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
18 September 2011
Oxford, UK
ENT surgeon


Grant Bates was a consultant ENT surgeon at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. He was born on 7 June 1953 in Launceston, Tasmania, the son of Mills Bates, a doctor, and Margaret née Duffas, the daughter of a gamekeeper, but went to the UK, to Oxford (Merton College) and then to the London Hospital to study medicine. His postgraduate training in ENT included spells as a senior house officer on the professorial unit at Gray's Inn Road in London, as a registrar in Oxford and then as a senior registrar in Bristol. He also spent time as a research fellow in both San Francisco and Brisbane, before returning to Australia (Cairns) as a consultant for two years before electing for life in Oxford in 1992.

In Oxford he threw himself into teaching undergraduates and postgraduates with his normal 'high energy' approach. As well as teaching the medical students, he became involved with the organisation of the student Christmas show and was often dragged on to the stage as part of the entertainment! Later, he took on the programme director's role for the regional training of registrars. Throughout, he was an inspirational teacher. Training included fitness sessions with him at the gym! Later he became an anatomy tutor at Merton and an intercollegiate examiner for the exit exam.

During his time as a consultant in Oxford, he developed his interest in rhinology and provided a regional service for complex rhinologic pathology. He also became one of the pioneers (and an international expert) of endoscopic stapling for pharyngeal pouch. As well as putting huge effort into his clinical role, he also had an interest in medical politics and became chairman of the medical staff committee (both at the Radcliffe Infirmary and the John Radcliffe on separate occasions). In 1997 he also found time to serve as secretary of the laryngology section of the Royal Society of Medicine.

He became known to even more people (if that was possible) when he took on the nationally important role of honorary secretary of the British Association of Otorhinolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (ENTUK) from 2002 to 2005. During his time with ENTUK he helped 'defuse' the political time bomb of disposable tonsillectomy instruments that were introduced for a short period (and were associated with a sharp increase in postoperative haemorrhage rates) to avoid the sterilisation concerns at the time regarding variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. But for his illness it is difficult to believe he would not have taken on more prominent national roles within the specialty in the future.

Although known within ENT for his input in these professional areas, he was probably equally recognised for his 'extra-curricular activities'. Grant was a glowing example of how to achieve a good 'work/life balance' well before the phrase first became popular. It is almost impossible to list the number of things that he 'crammed' into his life - he was an accomplished sub-aqua diving instructor and had a lifelong interest in underwater photography. Later in life he would throw in the odd London marathon run with training for the Engadin cross-country ski marathon in Switzerland, various triathlons, windsurfing and sailing (obtaining his Royal Yachting Association - RYA - coastal skipper certificate). He took up real tennis whilst in Oxford and spent many enjoyable hours on court (his definition of ENT was 'early nights and tennis'). He was a lifelong environmentalist and became a trustee of the Shark Trust in 2005. He was passionate about sharks and their conservation, and was an amazing advocate for the Trust, sharing his own experiences through talks and awareness events, and encouraging everyone he met to support the cause.

When all the 'trappings' of life are stripped away, the important things come down to relationships with people - family, friends, patients. He was the devoted husband of Sue (née Wilkinson), whom he married in 1981, and the enormously proud father of Rebecca and James. He was the 'ultimate' communicator and he touched an enormous number of people's lives with his kindness, generosity and huge sense of fun. He was a great example to us all as to how to enjoy life and, at the same time, give of your best professionally. He died peacefully at Sobell House in Oxford on 18 September 2011 after a short illness.

Christopher Milford

The Royal College of Surgeons of England