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Biographical entry Theodorou, Nikitas Alfred (1948 - 2014)

MRCS LRCP 1972; MB BS London 1972; FRCS Edin 1977; FRCS 1977; MS 1985.

23 July 1948
18 November 2014
General surgeon


Nikitas Alfred Theodorou was a consultant general surgeon at Charing Cross and West Middlesex hospitals, London. Although born in London on 23 July 1948 and completely anglicised in every way, there was no doubt he always maintained his Greek heart. This was reflected in his annual pilgrimage for one month in August to re-visit his homeland and his family. When he first developed his final illness, his colleagues knew something was wrong when his car remained in the car park in the first week of August!

His father, Alfred, was a businessman; his mother was Barbara. While their father influenced both boys, the younger son, Antony, followed him into business and Nik pursued a medical career. He was educated at Dulwich College Preparatory School and then at Harrow. He went on to study medicine at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School. He qualified in 1972.

He held house posts at Kent and Canterbury Hospital, and then at West Middlesex Hospital, and was subsequently a senior house officer, a registrar in general surgery, urology and in the professorial department of surgery at Charing Cross. He was then a senior registrar at Charing Cross Hospital and the West Middlesex, eventually joining the consultant staff.

His consultant practice was split between the two hospitals. Recent changes in NHS organisation and structure and the appearance of united hospital trusts to some extent make us forget the sheer effort in terms of time and dedication that was necessary to run parallel but different practices at two hospitals. He is, I know, still fondly remembered in the west of London, and no one can doubt that he virtually single handedly kept the gastrointestinal and surgical oncology department going at the West Middlesex during a time of staffing upheaval. He and his predecessor at the Charing Cross began to gain a reputation for the effective and, if necessary, aggressive surgical treatment of gastrointestinal malignancy. He was entirely at home and completely expert in gastrointestinal practice from the oesophagus to its most distal component. He embraced traditional elements of surgical expertise in keeping a kettle of water boiling in the theatre in order to obtain heated packs to accelerate the coagulation cascade!

Although he worked wonderfully well with, and was hugely liked and respected by, all members of the team, there was no doubt that during operations a hierarchy was maintained! Nik had an appropriately positive view of what had to be done and was certainly not going to accept anything short of his own high standards. Not only were his practical skills demonstrated in theatre eight, but his dedication to patient care, both on the wards and in the out-patient clinic, was never in question. He was meticulous in his time keeping, and gave in terms of time and effort under all circumstances when he felt it was important to do so.

He may have maintained a traditional practice in the operating theatre, but he was forward-looking and embraced laparoscopic techniques, which he rapidly mastered. His belief in radical surgery led him to establish, while chief of the service, the concept of the specialist gastrointestinal oncological surgeon, which has never been recognised as a true sub-specialism by many. The positive outcomes of his clinical practice do, however, lend support to this idea.

Perhaps reluctantly he embraced management responsibilities at both West Middlesex and Charing Cross hospitals, and continued as the units separated and he took on more of the burden of administration at the single hospital. He was responsible for the establishment of the initial multidisciplinary team and during his time, at what was now the Imperial College campus, enchanced and progressed this unit.

Nik was an excellent teacher and he is fondly remembered by friends, colleagues and his juniors, for whom he took the time and trouble to facilitate their progress through their training programmes. It was perhaps because of this that he joined the clinical section of the Royal Society of Medicine, rather than the other overtly more high profile, specialist sections.

He had a flourishing private practice, both in Wimbledon and at the Cromwell Hospital. At the latter he had the foresight to be one of the first surgeons to form a partnership with a gastrointestinal medical colleague.

Although my almost exact contemporary, he was a friend and mentor professionally and in life. He was survived by his first wife Jackie, with whom he had two children, Sophie and Alf. For his last years he found a soulmate, confidante and complete rock in his second wife, Irena, who could not have supported him more magnificently during the course of his last illness. He will be remembered with the greatest respect and affection by all those who came in contact with him, by his colleagues both medical and surgical, his juniors and successors. He died on 18 November 2014, aged 66.

Roger G Springall

The Royal College of Surgeons of England