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Biographical entry Stammers, Francis Alan Roland (1898 - 1982)

CBE 1945; TD; MRCS 1923; FRCS 1925; BSc Birmingham 1920; MB ChB 1923; ChM 1936; LRCP 1923.

12 December 1982
General surgeon and Neurosurgeon


There was always something of a military bearing about Alan Stammers. Handsome, upright, level-headed, he had an able and generous mind and was always to be counted on to do the right thing by his patients, his medical students, young aspiring surgeons and his colleagues. It was characteristic that when joining a colleague or junior walking a hospital corridor he would always adjust his step to be in accord with that person. This military trait could be attributed to his involvement in two world wars.

In 1913, in the new cadet corps of Dudley Grammar School, he was one of the first Corporals and at summer camp in 1914, with three other schools, he became Sergeant-Major. He used to say that it was the brass bands which encouraged him to enlist at the age of 18 and to set aside his entry to the Birmingham Medical School. After being a cadet in the Artists Rifles, he became a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery and as Lieutenant commanded a railway mounted 12" howitzer on Kummel Hill, Belgium, where he was wounded in the leg in 1918. He recalled how painless was the moment of wounding and how incredibly painful that wound became.

After the war he returned to the Birmingham Medical School gaining before qualification a BSc of which he was proud. It was undoubtedly the touchstone for academic and professional achievement in later years. The 1920's were years of training in the Birmingham General Hospital and Children's Hospital under Gamgee, Barling, Sampson and Leather, interspersed by attendance at the notable FRCS course at the London Hospital in 1925, while in 1929 he was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, USA. Here he studied neurosurgery under Adson and after visiting other neurosurgical centres returned home to become Birmingham's first neurosurgeon. With appointments to the Birmingham General and Children's Hospitals he rapidly built up a large consulting practice. Besides becoming adept in the injection and operative procedures for trigeminal neuralgia, he developed those recently discovered by Hunter and Royle for sympathetic nervous system, particularly peripheral vascular conditions of the hand and leg.

Retaining his Territorial Army commitment as a Major in 14 General Hospital by 1938, he was recalled immediately in September 1939, becoming Lieutenant-Colonel and 2nd I/C 89 General Hospital. After 2 years in Sierra Leone he returned to become Brigadier, consultant surgeon Western Command. He was remembered with admiration and gratitude when as consulting surgeon to forward areas of the Allied Armies in Italy and Austria, 1944-45, he and his jeep were constantly noticed well forward giving support to the surgical teams at the front. He was twice mentioned in despatches and was appointed CBE (Mil) and also Hon Colonel (TARO) RAMC in 1945. He received the Territorial Decoration and clasp.

Returning from the war to his old neurosurgical and general surgical practice he became a candidate for the first full time Chair of Surgery at Birmingham University. Once appointed he committed everything to establish one of the finest professorial surgical units in the country, with special interests in gastroenterology, vascular surgery, cancer surgery and follow-up, thoracic and the emergent heart and transplant surgery. Besides the 60-bedded clinical facilities with undergraduate teaching and examination commitments he developed a research laboratory on a scale new to the UK.

He attracted aspiring surgeons from the whole country and overseas. The results of his remarkable ability as a leader in surgical practice and surgical training became clear when of his assistants, six became Professors of Surgery or headed specialist units, while at the College one became President, three Vice-Presidents, six members of Council and four served on the Court of Examiners. One was a Jacksonian Prizewinner and several were Hunterian Professors.

His contribution to the practice of surgery included work on trigeminal neuralgia, sympathectomy for peripheral vascular conditions (also for hypertension in those days), the costoclavicular syndrome, and in particular gastric surgery. His literary contributions were noted for his work on the results of surgery for peptic ulcer and gastric cancer. He was also recognised for his contributions in respect of war surgery. He was a pioneer of surgical audit and began 'deaths and complications' meetings in 1950.

He served the College as an elected member of Council (1957-65), member of the Court of Examiners (1950-56), examiner in physiology for the Primary FRCS (1963-65) and besides overseas examinerships was the Conjoint Board inspector of the University of Khartoum and the Medical Services of Equatoria. His service to other bodies included membership and Presidencies of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland, the Section of Surgery of the Royal Society of Medicine, the West Midlands Surgical Society, the Midland Medical Society. He was Visiting Professor of Surgery to Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School 1950. He was much involved in the medical educational development in Birmingham and after retirement the Regional Hospital Board.

In 1933 he married Lois Marris, the daughter of a Birmingham general practitioner and herself a Birmingham Medical School graduate. It was a marriage of continued mutual support and happiness. They had one son and two daughters, one of whom became a physiotherapist. Rather unexpectedly Lois died in 1978 and Alan, stunned by the loss of his partner, died on 12 December 1982. As Jenner said of Hunter, he was a 'dear man'.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1983, 286, 139; Lancet 1983, 1, 78; The Times 17 December 1982].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England