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Biographical entry Wood, Kenneth Fowler (1923 - 2011)

MB ChB Leeds 1946; MD Washington 1947; FRCS 1952; ChM Leeds 1961.

6 July 1923
5 August 2011
General surgeon


Kenneth Fowler Wood, or 'Ken' to his colleagues and friends, was a general surgeon in Leicester. He was born in Manchester on 6 July 1923. There was no history of medicine in the family and his father, Maurice Herbert Wood, worked in Customs and Excise. His mother was Nellie Asquith Wood née Fowler. He went to Leeds Grammar School and then Leeds Medical School, and qualified there in 1946 with an honours degree. He spent a year at Washington University as a Rockefeller scholar and as a result of the work he did there gained an MD.

He worked as a resident surgical officer in Leeds at St James's Hospital and also at Leicester Royal Infirmary. In 1955 he was appointed as first assistant to Sir Andrew Kay in Sheffield and worked there for five years, before moving to Leicester as a consultant surgeon, where he spent the rest of his career.

Ken was an excellent teacher and was able to make teaching sessions interesting, informative and enjoyable. He played a very big part in making sure a medical school was established in Leicester. He was always enthusiastic about the prospect of the school and made sure that his enthusiasm rubbed off on others. He was largely responsible for getting agreement from his consultant colleagues to support the establishment of the school. This was no mean feat, and was only accomplished by his intelligent arguments and the high esteem in which he was held. He was on the committee that applied for the school to be established, and then organised the appointment of various academics to the foundation chairs.

He was an accomplished surgeon and was a 'can do' man, always trying his best to make things happen. He was a natural surgeon and able to do most of the operations of his day, which meant he was a real general surgeon, a breed now largely extinct. In spite of this, he was happy to assist in the establishment of the surgical specialties so necessary for a teaching hospital, even though this inevitably restricted the extent of his referral practice. Without his help, it would have been much harder to succeed in this task.

His considerable organisational skills led to him being a member and chairman of many committees. He was a very skilful chairman, making sure that everyone had their say and ensuring that decisions were made without putting them off by establishing endless subcommittees. He became regional adviser in surgery for Trent in 1973 and was also a surgical tutor for the Royal College of Surgeons. He was responsible for raising money to build the postgraduate centre at Leicester Royal Infirmary, which is named after him and functions to this day. He was also the first postgraduate dean at the University of Leicester and president of the Leicester Medical Society. The University of Leicester showed its gratitude to him by awarding him an honorary doctor of science degree.

Ken was a man who worked hard throughout his career and was never happier than when he was in theatre. His surgical career was matched by an equally successful marriage to Mary (née Charmian) and they had two daughters, of whom he was very proud. Mary died before Ken and in his later years his partner Betty looked after him and was a good friend. He died on 5 August 2011, aged 88.

Sir Peter Bell

The Royal College of Surgeons of England