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Biographical entry Ferguson, Alexander Fergus (1925 - 2012)

MB ChB Otago 1949; FRCS 1953; FRACS 1961.

4 February 1925
Auckland, New Zealand
5 October 2012


Fergus Ferguson was a consultant urologist in Wellington, New Zealand. He was born in Auckland to David Ferguson, a solicitor, and his wife, Hazel (née Buckland), the family moving to Wellington when he was four. He had three sisters - Barbara, Janet and Susan. He attended Wadestown Primary School and Wellington College, where his good academic achievements allowed him to pursue a career in medicine. Fergus studied at Otago University, becoming a demonstrator in anatomy in 1950. In addition to his medical studies he represented the university in hockey from 1945 to 1947.

Fergus worked as a house surgeon at Wellington Hospital from 1951 to 1952 and in 1953 travelled to England, working initially as a house surgeon at Great Ormond St Hospital for Sick Children (working with Denis Browne) and St Thomas' Hospital in London. He then obtained a registrar position at St Peter's Hospital, Chertsey. From 1957 to 1958 Fergus worked at Newcastle General Hospital, as a senior urological registrar to John Swinney and Keith Yeates, completing his time there as a research registrar in 1960. In Newcastle Fergus met and fell in love with Shirley Warriner in a whirlwind romance - they were engaged and married three weeks later.

Fergus returned to New Zealand in 1960, with Shirley and their first child, Catherine, who was just a few weeks old. A son, Bruce, was born in Wellington and the family further increased when, following the death of Fergus' sister, Janet, in 1975, her son, Stephen, joined the family. The family settled in Khandallah, Wellington, where they lived for over 50 years, renovating a house and establishing a beautiful garden. Shirley became a GP.

On his return to Wellington, Fergus initially became a senior admitting and casualty medical officer at Wellington Hospital. He obtained his fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1961 and was appointed as a visiting assistant surgeon (urology) and later a visiting urologist, a position he held until 1992. Fergus served as head of the department of urology from 1981 to 1992. In his role as urologist Fergus was the medical officer for the VD clinic from 1960 to 1971, and was an important contributor to the establishing of a spina bifida service in Wellington.

Fergus developed a special interest in paediatric urology and renal stone disease. At an early stage he recognised the potential advantage of minimally invasive approaches to stone disease and learnt the technique of percutaneous access and stone removal. He arranged for European experts to visit the department to spend a few days demonstrating the surgery to local urologists - becoming an expert himself with the technique over time.

With a keen interest in urology training, Fergus was highly regarded as a 'trainer' by his registrars - many urologists in current practice in Australasia learnt much of their craft from him. He was seen by his trainees as firm but fair. His philosophy in the operating theatre was that, wherever possible, the trainee should be the primary surgeon, with the consultant assisting: this 'hands on' approach was greatly appreciated. Fergus saw research as an important part of surgical training and he strongly encouraged his trainees to present their research projects at Australasian meetings. He was particularly proud of the Wellington trainees who contested (and won) the prestigious Keith Kirkland prize, awarded annually at the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand for the best urology registrar research presentation. Before computers became fashionable, he purchased an early Apple computer for the department to assist Wellington trainees in the generation of their projects. Fergus was a urology examiner for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons from 1968 to 1976.

Fergus encouraged a team approach in the urology department at Wellington Hospital. Multidisciplinary meetings were fostered and he was always keen to listen to the opinions of pathologists, radiologists, nephrologists and paediatricians, seeing the regular contact with allied specialists as a way of improving communication in the hospital and ultimately patient care. He was a man of generosity and a great host of dinners held regularly at his Khandallah home, believing in the 'complete' education of the young surgeon. His strawberry bowl punch at the annual Christmas party was legendary (and 'lethal'). A number of us who went on to do some training in the UK benefited from Fergus's membership of the Glyndebourne Opera; he was very generous with these hard to get tickets.

Thursday was traditionally Fergus's golf day. To remove any doubt, he usually attended ward rounds first thing in the morning sporting his tartan golf pants. On this day it was best to delay any complex clinical issues for another time; Fergus worked hard for the urology department at Wellington Hospital and all members of the urology team were pleased that he was able to get some time for recreation.

Fergus gave his time selflessly and whatever he became involved with, he would end up on the committee, as he always wanted to help. In the 1970s he was part of a group of doctors who were instrumental in re-energising the New Zealand Medical Assurance Society, which remains successful to this day. He was very active in the local Neighbourhood Watch for many years and was recognised for his efforts by a North Wellington Voluntary Service award in 2002.

Fergus was strongly committed to and supportive of his family. He adored Shirley and was happiest when they did things together. They shared a great love of music, opera, gardening, travel and each other. The family enjoyed overseas holidays, travelling to fascinating places and engaging in exciting activities, and, in addition, spent many an idyllic holiday in Northland at Coopers Beach, boating and swimming. Fergus strongly encouraged both Catherine and Bruce in all their activities. In his later years he visited his mother every day for her last ten years in her home in Wadestown, and then in her convalescent room at Bowen Hospital. He was a wonderful grandfather of Nicola and Courtney, and is greatly missed.

He died on 5 October 2012, aged 87.

Ferguson family
Grant Russell

The Royal College of Surgeons of England