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Biographical entry Parish, Christopher (1917 - 2014)

BSc Manchester; MB ChB 1940; FRCS 1948.

28 May 1917
28 May 2014
Cardiothoracic surgeon and Thoracic surgeon


Christopher Parish was the first cardiothoracic surgeon at Papworth Hospital, Cambridge. He was born in Withington, Manchester, the second of four children, and the only son, of Rachel and Reuben Parish. He attended Manchester Central High School and then the University of Manchester, where he gained a BSc before his completing medical studies, qualifying in 1940.

In 1941 he joined the RAMC as a medical specialist, marrying Joan Dorothy Bell immediately before starting his duties overseas. He served in the 8th Army in the north African desert and then moved on to the landings at Salerno and Anzio in Italy.

After the war, he held a number of positions at Manchester Royal Infirmary, gaining his fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1948. In 1950 he was appointed as a consultant thoracic surgeon in Manchester.

In 1952 he moved to Cambridge when he was appointed, initially as a thoracic surgeon, to the United Cambridge Hospitals and East Anglian Regional Hospital Board, the launch pad for his pioneering work at Papworth. He also lectured in thoracic surgery at the University of Cambridge and was appointed postgraduate dean for the University's school of clinical medicine and regional director for postgraduate medical education.

In the early 1950s tuberculosis had largely been brought under control: Papworth was seeing fewer cases of TB while the number of cardiac patients on the waiting list was increasing. Parish was instrumental in establishing a specialist cardiothoracic surgery unit at Papworth. He convinced the Regional Health Authority that cardiac surgery required specialist support staff and clinicians, and Ben Milstein was recruited to develop open heart surgery at the hospital. Other cardiothoracic surgeons soon joined the team, eventually leading to the UK's first successful heart transplant and the world's first heart-lung-liver transplant. Papworth is today the UK's largest specialist cardiothoracic hospital.

In 1968 Parish was elected as a fellow of Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, initially as director of studies in medicine and later as keeper of the muniments and co-editor of the College annual.

Outside medicine, Parish was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and president of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society and the Cambridgeshire Records Society. He took a lively interest in the community around his home and wrote up the history of the village of Boxworth.

Parish was an active supporter of the Royal British Legion and was president of the Elsworth and district branch, before its merger with the Swavesey branch. During his leisure time, Parish enjoyed fly fishing for salmon and trout.

Predeceased by his wife in 2009, Christopher Parish died on his 97th birthday in 2014. They had no children.

Rod Parkinson

Sources used to compile this entry: [Papworth Hospital 6 June 2014 Obituary: Pioneering heart and lung surgeon Christopher Parish passes away, aged 97 - accessed 13 July 2015].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England