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Biographical entry Jepson, Richard Pomfret (1918 - 1980)

MRCS and FRCS 1947; BSc 1938; MB ChB Manchester 1941; FRACS.

15 February 1918
Whalley, Lancashire
19 October 1980
General surgeon


Richard Pomfret Jepson was born in Whalley, Lancashire, on 15 February 1918, the son of Mr W N and Mrs L E Jepson. He was educated at St Mary's Grammar School, Clitheroe, and at Manchester University where he won colours for cricket, soccer and golf. He graduated in 1941 and after early house appointments, one of which was with Sir Geoffrey Jefferson, he joined the RAMC and was shortly posted to the Army Head Injuries Hospital at Oxford where, with a number of other young doctors, he had basic neurosurgical training with Sir Hugh Cairns. Posted to No 5 Army Neurosurgical Unit as an assistant surgeon he then served in North Africa and Italy. He was demobilised as a surgical specialist with the rank of Major and shortly completed the Final FRCS in 1947. He then joined the post-war supernumerary registrar programme in Manchester, working with Professor Michael Boyd who had recently been appointed as the first whole-time Professor of Surgery at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Jepson was early in showing great capability, both as a practical surgeon and also in research on peripheral vascular disease, publishing a number of important papers concerned with Raynaud's phenomenon and the vibratory tool syndrome. He was awarded a Commonwealth Fund scholarship and worked for a year with Prof Fiorindo A Simeone at the University of Western Reserve, Cleveland, Ohio. On returning home he was appointed lecturer and later reader in surgery on Boyd's unit, and also consultant surgeon to the Manchester Royal Infirmary. He was a Hunterian Professor in 1951 when he lectured on Raynaud's phenomenon.

In 1954 he became foundation Professor of Surgery to the new whole-time unit at the University of Sheffield and consultant surgeon to the Royal Infirmary there. However, he became steadily disillusioned with the grey state of post-war Britain and what he regarded as the too low rewards of professorial surgery in the UK. In 1951 he had married Dr Mary Oliver, herself a Manchester graduate and daughter of T H Oliver, the Professor of Therapeutics there. They had five daughters and it was chiefly his concern for his growing family that caused him to seek pastures new. His opportunity came with the creation of whole-time professorial units at the University of Adelaide, South Australia. His friend, Sir Hugh Robson, had been appointed to the medical chair in 1953 and he followed as Professor of Surgery in 1958. His earlier experience in the Army and the UK, combined with his strong character, energy, shrewdness, iconoclastic wit and great charm, made him an admirable candidate for that post. Those assets, combined with superb clinical judgement and surgical dexterity, won him the enthusiastic support of his colleagues. He was a prime mover in the performance of kidney transplantation and initiated tissue typing in South Australia.

Jepson's department was first sited in the newly built Queen Elizabeth Hospital but three years later was moved to the Royal Adelaide Hospital when a second appointment was made at the Queen Elizabeth. He also served as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine for two years but resigned from his chair in 1968, saying that ten years was long enough to make a worthwhile contribution. Then, aged 50, he continued on the Royal Adelaide staff as senior visiting vascular surgeon until 1976, established a successful private practice and still published many papers on a wide variety of surgical and scientific subjects. Having been a founder member of the Surgical Research Society in the UK, he was co-founder and one-time President of the Surgical Research Society of Australasia. He helped many of his younger colleagues in their careers, and he was a kindly, witty and highly intelligent man, widely read in history and languages, who brushed off any reference to his own undoubted talents with a self-deprecating smile. In his early sixties he developed symptoms of what proved to be an advanced and inoperable carcinoma of the stomach and died in his own home on 19 October 1980, aged 62.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Med J Aust 1981, 1, 260-2; Lancet 1980, 2, 1095].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England