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Biographical entry Mearns, Alan James (1940 - 2008)

MB ChB Liverpool 1963; FRCS Edin 1969; FRCS 1970.

17 March 1940
23 May 2008
Cardiothoracic surgeon


Alan Mearns was a cardiothoracic surgeon in Bradford. He studied medicine in Liverpool, qualifying MB ChB in 1963, and continued his surgical training in the city, passing his FRCS Edinburgh in 1969 and his FRCS in 1970. After a post as a senior registrar in cardiothoracic surgery at Killingbeck Hospital, Leeds, he was appointed to his consultant post in Bradford in January 1980.

Alan was widely read but very down to earth. He got on well with patients and staff alike with an easy going nature on the ward and in the outpatient setting. He was good at oesophageal surgery, bringing the same easy going nature to the theatre as on the wards.

He published numerous papers and contributed to major textbooks. A series of studies on pain reduction after thoracotomy was a particularly important contribution. He worked closely with his colleague 'Sabba' Sabanathan and their anaesthetist colleagues, completing an influential randomised controlled trial. As a result, continuous paravertebral intercostal nerve block has become a standard method of postoperative pain relief in thoracic surgery ('A prospective, randomized comparison of preoperative and continuous balanced epidural or paravertebral bupivacaine on post-thoracotomy pain, pulmonary function and stress responses.' Br J Anaesth. 1999 Sep;83[3]:387-92).

He was a regular attendee and frequent contributor at society meetings, appearing as a tousle-haired, sometimes sandal-wearing and somewhat eccentric figure. His views were forthright but well-founded and delivered with generosity to his colleagues and trainees, and always with good humour. He is spoken of with great affection by his one-time trainees. He created an ambience of good will in his staff, which had a positive influence on patient care.

His first wife died young and he married for a second time, to Sally. Alan James Mearns died on 23 May 2008. He was 68. He was survived by Sally and by seven children from his two marriages and six grandchildren.

Tom Treasure

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2009 338 1677 - accessed 12 May 2015].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England