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Biographical entry Sears, Richard Tankard (1924 - 2013)

MB BChir Cambridge 1949; DObst 1949; MRCOG 1955; FRCS 1956; FRCOG 1968.

19 March 1924
Chesterfield, Derbyshire
15 June 2013
Obstetrician and gynaecologist


Richard Sears ('Dick') was an obstetrician and gynaecologist in Nottingham. He was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, on 19 March 1924, the son of Herbert Sears, a corn merchant, and his wife Evelyn Ruth Sears née Tankard, a housewife. He was educated at Chesterfield Grammar School and at Epsom College, and then went to up to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1942, on an exhibition. During the Second World War undergraduate medical degrees were truncated and were normally completed in five years, but Sears chose to take an extra year in pathology at Cambridge, before moving to Middlesex Hospital Medical School for his clinical training. He qualified in 1948.

His first house job was at Middlesex Hospital, working with Sir Eric Riches and Cecil Murray, who both made a great impression on him. He then spent two years in the Royal Air Force, carrying out his National Service.

He much enjoyed surgery and was surprised to find he possessed ability in the operating theatre: this, together with the satisfaction of bringing new life into the world, attracted him to specialise in obstetrics and gynaecology. At that time aspiring gynaecologists were expected to have a surgical fellowship, as well as membership of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (MRCOG) - a long period of training which included many resident appointments, all the more difficult as Sears was by this time married and could not afford to live in London.

He became a registrar at the City Hospital in Nottingham and was then a senior registrar at the Jessop Hospital in Sheffield. He gained his MRCOG in 1955 and his FRCS in 1956. In 1961 he was appointed as a consultant at the maternity hospital in Nottingham, later to become part of the university hospital.

He gained a reputation as an excellent surgeon and a fine teacher of surgical technique. He was particularly interested in the relief of pain during labour. He wrote 'Use of spinal analgesia in forceps and breech deliveries.' (Br Med J. 1959 Mar 21;1[5124]:755-8) and, in 1986, published a report in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology on a case of metastasising fibroma ('Metastasising leiomyoma of the uterus and hormonal manipulations. Case report.' Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1986 Jun;93[6]:646-8).

He was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1968. He served as president of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society from 1981 to 1982, was president of the North of England Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society, and was vice president of the Birmingham and Midland Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society.

Whilst at Cambridge he met Joan Tulley, of Girton College, on a fruit picking mission in Wisbech. She was about to go to the Institute of Education in London to complete her training as a schoolteacher. They married in July 1948, just after he qualified. They were both devout Christians and their faith coloured their whole lives, both professionally and personally. They had three children, two daughters (Margaret and Jane) and a son (John).

Richard Sears died on 15 June 2013 from septicaemia secondary to a urinary tract infection. He was 89.

Michael Pugh

The Royal College of Surgeons of England