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Biographical entry Ross, William Mackie (1922 - 2011)

TD 1968; DL 1971; CBE 1987; MB BS Durham 1945; DMRT 1948; MD 1953; FRCS 1956; FFR 1961; FRCR 1975; Hon FACR 1986; Hon FRCS Edin 1994.

14 December 1922
15 March 2011


William Mackie 'Bill' Ross was head of radiotherapy at Newcastle General Hospital and a former president of the Royal College of Radiologists. He was born in Glasgow on 14 December 1922. His father, Harry Caithness Ross, was a professional golfer in Durham; his mother, Catherine Ross née Mackie, was the daughter of a gardener. Ross was educated at Neville's Cross Primary School and then Durham Johnston School, where he gained a state scholarship to study medicine at King's College, University of Durham. He qualified MB BS in 1945, after following the shortened wartime course.

He held house surgeon and house physician posts at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, and was subsequently a registrar and then a senior registrar in radiotherapy at Shotley Bridge Hospital. He gained his diploma in radiotherapy in 1948. During his training he was particularly influenced by John Hamilton Barclay and Christopher John Lester Thurgar.

From 1951 to 1953, he carried out his National Service in the Royal Army Medical Corps, as a specialist in radiology to the British troops in Austria.

In 1953 he was appointed as a consultant in radiotherapy in Newcastle, and continued in this post until his retirement in 1987. From 1973 he was consultant in charge of the Northern Regional Radiotherapy Centre, and also an honorary lecturer and head of the department of radiotherapy at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He was also chairman of the medical staff committee at Newcastle.

During his long association with radiotherapy at Newcastle, Ross helped ensure an effective service was delivered to patients in all parts of the region, in particular to the more peripheral districts. To this end, he was instrumental in developing smaller units in Cleveland and Cumbria, which retained links to the larger Newcastle base. Throughout his career, Ross was involved in clinical trials, including the King's/Cambridge breast cancer trial and the British National Lymphoma Investigation. With the backing of the North of England Cancer Research Campaign, he also developed an oncology centre at Newcastle General Hospital.

Ross was president of the northern council of the BMA (on two occasions), president of the British Institute of Radiology, the section of radiotherapy of the Royal Society of Medicine and of the North of England Surgical Society. From 1983 to 1986 he was president of the Royal College of Radiologists. He then became secretary of the Conference of Medical Royal Colleges (later to become the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges).

From 1985 to 1989, Ross was chairman of section of radiotherapy of the European Association of Radiology (EAR). He then became treasurer of EAR, remaining in post through the organisation's transition to become the European Society of Radiology and during the establishment of the European Congress of Radiology. In 1993 he was awarded the Society's Boris Rajewsky medal.

Ross served with distinction in the Territorial Army, becoming an honorary colonel in charge of 201(N) General Hospital.

Outside medicine, he enjoyed car rallying. He was a member of local motor clubs, and a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists. Once he retired and had returned to Durham, he joined the local branches of Probus and the National Trust.

In April 1948 he married Mary Burt, a primary schoolteacher. They had three children - Heather, Hilary and Duncan - and five grandchildren. They celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in 2008, but Mary died later that same year, in November. William Mackie Ross died on 15 March 2011, aged 88, after a short illness.

Sarah Gillam

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2011 342 2842; European Society of Radiology Dr William Mackie Ross CBE TD DL MD FRCS FRCR - Obituary - accessed 30 April 2014].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England