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Biographical entry Farrar, David James (1942 - 2015)

MRCS LRCP 1966; MB BS London 1966; FRCS 1971; MS 1979.

3 July 1942
Rawdon, Yorkshire
16 March 2015
Urological surgeon


David Farrar was appointed as a consultant urological surgeon at Selly Oak Hospital in 1978 and, in 1993, with hospital mergers, moved to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, where he remained until his retirement in 2003.

He was born on 3 July 1942 in Rawdon, Yorkshire, the only son of James Farrar, a public health inspector, and Jessie Farrar, a shop assistant. David went to Leeds Grammar School, where he was a keen sportsman, doing well in rugby and boxing, and showed leadership qualities in the school's Combined Cadet Force. He also shone academically and gained a county council award to study medicine at St Thomas's Hospital Medical School. He qualified in 1966.

Aspiring to a surgical career, David was a prosector in the anatomy department at St Thomas' and, having passed the FRCS in 1971, was drawn to urology after obtaining a research fellowship at the Middlesex Hospital under radiologist Graham Whiteside, who, with Richard Turner-Warwick, was pioneering the new investigative technique of urodynamics combined with bladder imaging. This post led to a career-long interest in bladder dysfunction and female urology, and the award of an MS degree in 1979. Meanwhile David had secured a competitive senior registrar post on the Portsmouth-Norwich rotation under John Vinnicombe, Forbes Abercrombie, Alan Green and Mike Handley Ashken.

Whilst a medical student, David met Pom (Pamela Allberry) a St Thomas' nurse, who also had a Yorkshire family background, and they married in 1969.

David's interest in urodynamics continued and he became an active member of the International Continence Society, which was formed in 1971 and continues to flourish as a multidisciplinary organisation, embracing research and practice in the management of all aspects of bladder dysfunction. Continuing this special interest, David was a founder member of the British Association of Continence Care in 1990, a pioneer of the multidisciplinary pelvic floor group at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham in 1999 and of the British Association of Urological Surgeons' section on female and reconstructive urology when it was established in 2001.

David was a Royal College of Surgeons' surgical tutor at Selly Oak (from 1984 to 1989) and an examiner in surgery at the RCS. However, there were two areas of postgraduate education that were of special importance to David: the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) and the Burberry Club. The RSM urology section held monthly educational meetings in London, which he attended regularly, travelling from Birmingham. He became a member of the council of the section and progressed to treasurer and then president in 2001. The urology section was a pioneer in holding a winter meeting overseas, usually at a ski resort and linking up with a local urology department, and when president David and his wife hosted a very successful meeting in Arosa, Switzerland. These meetings with their informal and relaxed atmosphere were far more significant as opportunities for continuing medical education than those who had not experienced them would believe, and many lasting friendships were formed.

The Burberry Travel Club was started in 1981 by a small group of contemporary urologists (Neville Harrison, Patrick Doyle, Chris Gashes, Hugh Whitfield and David Farrar) who met annually to discuss their difficult urological cases and professional issues, and for their wives to share their pressures and family concerns. The group continued to meet for 34 years until David's death (Patrick Doyle had sadly died whilst at a Burberry meeting in 1998) brought the annual club to an inevitable end.

David was very efficient and well organised, keeping careful notes and lists of financial and career details. His qualities as a wise and reliable committee member were recognised when reconfiguring the urological services in the Midlands and, after the merger of Selly Oak with Queen Elizabeth hospitals, when he chaired the combined surgical division.

David was widely recognised by patients and colleagues as a dedicated, skilful and compassionate clinician. His affability was always apparent, but his wry sense of humour could elude some. However, given the right opportunity, he could entertain with a store of Yorkshire jokes and sport-related stories. David's love of all sport was lifelong, with rugby, golf and cricket being paramount. He lived conveniently close to the golf club in Solihull, which played a major part in his family and social life.

Few people knew about David's bowel malignancy before he died unexpectedly on 16 March 2015 following surgery. He was 72. He was survived by his wife Pom (Pamela), daughter, Charlotte, and son, Nic.

Neville Harrison

Sources used to compile this entry: [Charlotte Farrar and notes by David Farrar; Trends in Urology & Men's Health Volume 6 Issue 3 May/June 2015 p.18 - accessed 15 January 2017].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England