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Biographical entry Hill, Graham Lancelot (1939 - 2013)

ONZM 2009; MB BS Otago 1963; FRACS 1969; ChM 1973; FRCS 1976; MD Leeds 1979; FACS 1981.

24 October 1939
Dunedin, New Zealand
28 February 2013
General surgeon


Graham Hill was head of surgery at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He was born in Dunedin on 24 October 1939, the only son and second child of Thomas Graham Campbell Hill, a driving instructor, and his wife, Margaret Iris Hill née Arthur, a teacher. He was educated at King's Hill High School in Dunedin, and then Otago University.

After qualifying he spent three years as a missionary surgeon in South East Asia, first in Hong Kong and then in Bandung, Indonesia. After being invalided home, he carried out further training, as a senior registrar at Leeds General Infirmary under J C Goligher, and then at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston with Stanley Dudrick.

In 1975 he returned to Leeds, as assistant director of the surgical unit and a senior lecturer, subsequently reader. While at Leeds he developed, with colleagues, a new method of breaking down the living body in terms of protein, fat, minerals and water.

He was appointed to the chair of surgery at Auckland in 1980, and established a purpose-built facility for measuring the body composition of critically ill patients. This work culminated in a landmark paper, in which changes in body stores of fat, muscle, water and minerals were measured in critically ill patients, providing solid information for the critical care of these patients ('Sequential changes in the metabolic response in severely septic patients during the first 23 days after the onset of peritonitis' Ann Surg. 1998 Aug;228[2]:146-58). In New Zealand he also pioneered the development of safe methods for excision of the rectum for cancer, and established the pelvic pouch operation for patients with ulcerative colitis.

He wrote eight surgical books, 35 book chapters and published over 200 papers in the scientific literature, with his work still consistently cited.

He was much in demand as a visiting professor, and gained many awards and distinctions, including the Sir Louis Barnett medal in 1972 and the Moynihan prize in 1978. He was a John Mitchell Crouch fellow in 1984, and a Hunterian professor in 1986. In 2006 he was awarded the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons lifetime research award, created to recognise the distinguished contributions to research of pre-eminent Australasian surgical scientists. And even wider recognition came in 2009, when he was invested with the New Zealand Order of Merit.

He was married to Bartha (née de Bres) and they had three sons - Andrew, Philip and Douglas, who are all doctors practising in New Zealand. Andrew is professor of surgery at the University of Auckland.

Hill died on 28 February 2013 after a long illness, aged 73. He left a phenomenal legacy. John Windsor, professor of surgery at Auckland Hospital, said at Graham's funeral: 'Wherever Graham worked - Dunedin, Indonesia, Leeds, Houston and Auckland - he made a distinguished contribution.' He will be remembered for his passion for improving how surgeons practise surgery, for training young people as surgeon-scientists and for enhancing patient care and outcome.

M R B Keighley

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2013 346 2995; The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons: Graham Hill - accessed 11 December 2013].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England