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Biographical entry Hale, John Edward (1936 - 2011)

MRCS LRCP 1960; MB BS London 1960; FRCS 1966; MS 1976; BA Surrey.

12 December 1936
Evesham, Worcestershire
8 September 2011
Colorectal surgeon and General surgeon


John Hale was a consultant general and colorectal surgeon at Redhill in Surrey. He was born into a family of market gardeners in the Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire. He showed early academic promise and attended Prince Henry's Grammar School in Evesham, where he was head boy. He then gained a scholarship to King's College in London and Westminster Hospital Medical School, where he met his future wife Patricia Hikins, who was a student nurse, and they later married in 1964.

Having qualified in 1960 and after house jobs at Westminster Hospital and in Southampton, he set off to Nigeria, where he did a year in tropical paediatrics and obstetrics in Ibadan. He drove back to Europe across North Africa. Following a spell in casualty at Edgware General Hospital, he set sail again, this time as a ship's doctor, travelling through the Suez Canal to the Far East. Having studied for the primary FRCS while at sea, he passed the exam after returning to London.

After senior house officer posts in Bath and Bristol, he moved back to the Westminster and Gordon hospitals with the final FRCS under his belt. He then spent a year doing research into colonic healing in rats, using cyanoacrylate glue, at the University of California in San Francisco, under the direction of Englebert Dunphy and Tom Hunt, which led to his thesis for the MS. He returned to work at Roehampton Hospital with Alan Rutter and then as a senior registrar to Harold Ellis at the Westminster.

He gained his MS in 1976 and a year later was appointed as a consultant surgeon in Redhill, first at Redhill General and Smallfield hospitals and later at the new East Surrey Hospital, where he remained until his retirement in 2001. Here he developed his interest in coloproctology. He belonged to the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland, was an honorary member of the American Medical Association and was an elected member of the Société Internationale de Chirurgie. With the development of laparoscopic surgery, he became an enthusiastic advocate. For several years he visited the Norwegian fjords, operating at local hospitals with a nurse anaesthetist, while his wife and three daughters enjoyed a holiday.

John was a kindly person, with wide interests outside medicine and great enthusiasm for all he did. Subject throughout his life to periods of depression, he was devastated to be sent on permanent leave at the age of 62. His many interests kept him busy, with music playing a large part in his life. As a young man he was a church organist in Evesham and he had a fine voice, singing as a baritone with Pat in local choral societies. He enjoyed gardening and in later life he kept bees. He was a keen Rotarian and a member of a walking group. In retirement he studied history, art history and literature to gain a BA in combined studies at the University of Surrey. He also managed his own investments. Latterly he took up windsurfing, but never learned how to turn round.

He always maintained his roots in Worcestershire, with a cottage in Broadway and his bank in Evesham. He loved family holidays on the Scilly Isles.

He diagnosed his own carcinoid syndrome in 2009, and died on 8 September 2011. He was 74.

Robin Lightwood

The Royal College of Surgeons