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Biographical entry Grundhill, Wilfred (1920 - 1983)

MRCS and FRCS 1952; MB BCh Johannesburg 1944; FRCS Ed 1952.

2 March 1920
Brakpan, South Africa
4 May 1983
Thoracic surgeon


Wilfred Grundhill was born on 2 March 1920 in Brakpan, where he matriculated at the local high school in 1938. His father had emigrated from England and was employed in the gold mining industry; he developed a lung problem and his son's interest in thoracic surgery was nurtured by this misfortune. He started his medical career in Johannesburg where he qualified MB, BCh in 1944. He was then on the staff of the Johannesburg General Hospital until July 1950 when he was awarded the Cecil John Adams Memorial Travelling Fellowship which enabled him to undertake postgraduate training in thoracic surgery in England and during this time he took his Fellowship in 1952. He then spent four years at the Harefield Hospital thoracic surgical unit.

He returned to South Africa in 1956 and started practice in Bloemfontein as the first thoracic surgeon in the Orange Free State and was the pioneer and instigator of numerous advances in this province. Within months of this appointment he met and married a young staff nurse, Olga Doorman who, after training in the Netherlands had decided to work her way around the world with Bloemfontein as her first stop!

Wilf threw himself into the work of developing the thoracic unit at the National Hospital with diligence and devotion. He was respected by his colleagues and loved by his patients. A theatre sister remembered him as always singing - even in the street. He also worked at Pelonomi Hospital and he was largely responsible for setting up the critical care facilities in the Free State. Patients no longer had to leave the area for cardiothoracic operations.

He and Olga had three children, Carole, Wilf and Helene. Their son had acquired his MB, ChB and their youngest daughter was in her third year as a medical student in Johannesburg when Wilf collapsed while operating. In spite of a coronary artery procedure he died on 4 May 1983 survived by his wife and family.

Sources used to compile this entry: [S Afr med J 1983, 64, 72].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England