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Biographical entry Frew, Ivor James Cunningham (1921 - 2009)

MB ChB Liverpool 1944; FRCS 1949

2 October 1921
January 2009
ENT surgeon


Ivor James Cunningham Frew was a consultant ENT surgeon in Newcastle. He was born in Sheffield on 2 October 1921, the son of William Frew, an area manager of Terry's Chocolate, and Kate Gibb Frew née McGillivray, a housewife. He was educated at Glasgow High School and Liverpool College, then studied medicine at Liverpool University, where he was particularly influenced by Henry Cohen, later Lord Cohen of Birkenhead.

From 1945 to 1947 he was a captain in the RAMC, with the 6th Airborne Division, seeing active service in Palestine.

Following his demobilisation, he was a senior registrar at Liverpool Ear, Nose and Throat Infirmary on Myrtle Street. In 1950 he was appointed as a consultant ENT surgeon at Newcastle General, Hexham General and St Nicholas hospitals, Newcastle. He was also an examiner and an honorary lecturer at the University of Newcastle. He was a regional adviser for the Royal College of Surgeons. He retired in September 1983.

He will be particularly remembered for his development (with his neurosurgical friend and colleague Ian McIver) of the use of tracheostomy in brain stem injury. This was later extended to other unconscious patients, especially those suffering from tetanus. First developed in Newcastle, this treatment is now accepted worldwide.

He published papers on conductive deafness, tracheostomy and Ménière's disease, among other topics, and co-wrote The facial nerve (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1979).

He was president of the North of England ENT Society and vice president of the section of laryngology at the Royal Society of Medicine.

Outside medicine, he was chairman of the board of directors of the Newcastle upon Tyne YMCA, a regional chairman and a member of the national board. He enjoyed golf and was a member of Close House University and Alnmouth Village golf clubs.

He was married twice. In January 1947 he married Elizabeth Mary Frew. They had two children, William David Cunningham and Jane Elizabeth. His first wife died in August 1987 and three years later he married Frances Moya Frew. Ivor Frew died in January 2009. He was 87.

Sarah Gillam

The Royal College of Surgeons of England