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Biographical entry Santer, Graham Julian (1930 - 2012)

FRCS 1963; MB ChB Liverpool 1957; DObst RCOG 1959.

16 December 1930
6 May 2012
General surgeon and Vascular surgeon


Graham Julian Santer was a consultant general and vascular surgeon at Walton and Fazakerley hospitals. He was born on 16 December 1930 in Liverpool, of orthodox Eastern European Jewish heritage, and was educated at the Liverpool Collegiate School, which set him on a sound foundation for a highly academic future vocation. Before entering medical school in Liverpool he carried out his National Service and later enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps based at the Royal Herbert Military Hospital, Woolwich. He was dispatched all over the country on a project designed to screen all personnel for TB. It was a period of camaraderie and bonheur in his life, which he often recounted with fond memories.

After he qualified in 1957, he obtained his formative surgical experience in different parts of the country, including Blackpool, Chelmsford and Southport, whilst pursuing his fellowship for the Royal College of Surgeons, which he gained in 1963.

As a registrar his interest in the exciting field of vascular surgery, a specialty very much on the ascendancy at that time, was heavily influenced by pioneers such as Peter Martin of the Hammersmith Hospital and Edgar Parry at Broadgreen Hospital. His research into thrombofibrinolysis made an important contribution to the understanding of venous disease and vascular reconstruction in limb salvage. This interest later led to a seminal publication in the Annals ('Extended deep femoral angioplasty and lumbar sympathectomy as a limb salvage procedure', 1979 Mar;61[2]:146-8). This was an important advance in the relief of rest pain from chronic limb ischemia and offered an alternative to major amputation in the elderly.

He was appointed as a senior registrar and subsequently as a consultant in Walton Hospital and embarked on a long and distinguished career, exemplified by his tireless diligence, pursuit of excellence and ultimate patient care in a single-handed vascular practice in a major teaching hospital with a vast catchment area extending from north Liverpool to Lancashire. In addition to being on constant cover for vascular emergencies such as ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, Graham was fully involved in all aspects of general surgery. He recognised that early mobilisation after surgery was a key factor in preventing post-operative deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolus. To reduce hospital stay, short surgical procedures were hitherto done as day cases performed in the main or accident and emergency theatres. In 1976 he published and gave lectures on his experience of the planning, organisation and management of a new independent purpose-built day case surgical unit at Walton. This was audited to show a highly efficient and successful scheme with no parallel in the country.

Not only was he modest in material aspiration, Graham's unassuming confidence belied his immense ability and skill. A man of high principle and intellect, he was a fierce defender of the disadvantaged and the marginalised. His sense of righteousness made him an ideal representative on the health authority manpower committee. During a session with the hospital chairman, who was seconded from the chemical giant ICI, and who was insistent on reducing the level of nursing staff as a cost-cutting exercise, Graham retorted with his typical sense of humour that trained staff must not be treated as pots of paint.

He epitomised the essence of professional integrity, pragmatism and clinical wisdom of the highest order. These fine qualities were indelibly imprinted in all who worked under him throughout his long, distinguished surgical career.

A private man, Graham always considered himself fortunate in life. Happily married to his soul-mate Maggie (née Carpenter) for 40 years, they had three successful children and five grandchildren. A loving father and devoted husband, he placed great importance on a tight-knit family life. He was much loved for his caring nature. His vast knowledge of current affairs, politics, fine wine and history made him delightful company in any circle and to friends of all ages.

Graham retired in 1993 and enjoyed his passion for reading, travelling to visit old friends and being surrounded by his loving family. He lived life to the full and bore his terminal illness with serene courage, resolute stoicism and graceful acceptance.

Andrew Wu

The Royal College of Surgeons of England