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Biographical entry Wakefield, Alan Ross (1917 - 1985)

MRCS and FRCS 1948; MB BS Melbourne 1941; MS 1946; FRACS 1947.

22 July 1985
Victoria, Australia
Hand surgeon and Plastic surgeon


Alan Ross Wakefield, known as 'The Vicar', was an Australian plastic and hand surgeon of international renown. He will be particularly remembered for writing, with Sir Benjamin Keith Rank, the classic text Surgery of repair as applied to hand injuries, etc (Edinburgh/London, E & S Livingstone), first published in 1953 with three further editions. The importance and value of this book extends beyond 'the hand': the classification the authors introduced of wounds into 'tidy' and 'untidy' continues to be cited in most papers and books on trauma.

The son of George Thomas and Florence Ann Wakefield, he was educated at Melbourne Grammar School and then at the medical school at Melbourne, qualifying in 1941.

On completion of his basic training, he joined the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps and served in New Guinea, Brisbane and Heidelberg Military Hospital, where he joined the No 2 maxillofacial and plastic unit. It was here he learnt his plastic surgery from Rank. Wakefield ended his military service in 1946 as a captain and with the Pacific Star medal.

Following his demobilisation, he became an honorary assistant plastic surgeon at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and passed his MS and FRACS in 1947. He then travelled to the United Kingdom and spent a year training in plastic surgery. He passed his FRCS in 1948.

He returned to Melbourne, as a plastic surgeon at the Royal Children's Hospital and at the Repatriation Hospital, Heidelberg. As head of the plastic surgery department at the Royal Children's Hospital he successfully developed the hospital's reputation, especially for cleft lip repair.

As well as his epic work on hand injuries, he published work on cleft lip and palate, and on intersex problems. On trips to the United States he developed many long-lasting contacts. In 1964 he was invited to give the founder's lecture at the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.

In later years, he retired from private practice, but retained his Royal Children's Hospital appointment. When his role there ended, he became medical director of the Victorian Plastic Surgery Unit.

He was also a farmer, and bred sheep and cattle. He was president of the Murray Grey Beef Cattle Society, and did much to develop this new breed of beef cattle. He also grew roses and was a keen exhibitor and show judge.

He married twice. By his first wife, Mary, he had four children and six grandchildren. His second wife was Valerie. Alan Ross Wakefield died following a long illness on 22 July 1985 at his home in San Remo, Victoria, Australia.

Brian Morgan

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons; Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery: April 1986 - Volume 77 - Issue 4 - p697; Journal of Hand Surgery, Vol.1 11A, 1986].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England Library