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Biographical entry Yates, Alan Kenneth (1932 - 1990)

MRCS and FRCS 1963; MB ChB Sheffield 1957.

9 December 1932
20 November 1990
Cardiac surgeon


Alan Kenneth Yates was born on 9 December 1932 and after early education entered the University of Sheffield Medical School. During his student years he represented Essex and Yorkshire at swimming, often training at night. He was awarded the University medal for both the second MB and the final MB and collected numerous prizes and gold medals in a variety of clinical subjects. The day after he graduated he married Enid.

His house appointments were to the University departments of medicine and surgery at Sheffield and following these he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps for his National Service, initially serving as senior casualty officer at the Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot, and later as junior surgical specialist at Gibraltar Military Hospital. During this time, in addition to his professional commitments he captained the British Army swimming team.

On returning to civilian life he was demonstrator of anatomy at Bristol before returning to Sheffield as registrar to the cardiothoracic unit working under Desmond Taylor. This fired his enthusiasm for cardiac surgery and after a further appointment as rotating surgical registrar in Sheffield he was appointed senior registrar at Guy's Hospital, working under Lord Brock and Donald Ross from 1964 to 1968. He impressed his surgical colleagues with his energy, enthusiasm and the high standard of personal care he gave to his patients, but in 1968 he left Guy's in order to take up a vacant appointment at the Northern General Hospital, Sheffield. Sadly this appointment was not up to his expectations owing to a shortage of facilities and restricted financial provision for his department. After about a year he returned to Guy's Hospital as successor to Lord Brock.

He tackled his new appointment with his characteristic enthusiasm and vigour and additionally undertook directorship of the intensive care unit. Although critical and outspoken about the failings of any junior, he was always supportive in times of difficulty and he earned great respect from junior medical and nursing staff at Guy's. His morning rounds on Cornelius and Brock wards were always well attended and he demanded optimal standards for every patient under his care. He made valuable contributions to surgical literature on aortic valve disease, supportive perfusion and intensive care and undertook management tasks with the same enthusiasm he gave his clinical work. Indeed, it is said of him that, when a registrar, he had been so involved with his work that he only learnt of the birth of his son, Neil, several days after it had occurred.

In the mid-1970's he went to the Middle East to help in establishing cardiac services. On one particularly hot day he plunged into the Mediterranean and swam across the harbour at a speed never seen before by his surgical colleagues. On his return they closely questioned him. He admitted that he had done some swimming in his youth but until hard pressed he concealed the fact that he had swum in the 1954 Olympics.

He was a sociable man who loved parties where his expansive personality and sense of humour would burgeon. He was a keen sailor and it was well known that he intended to take early retirement at 60 and sail round the world with his wife. Sadly he developed carcinoma of the caecum and despite operative excision he developed bony and hepatic metastases. He died on 20 November 1990 aged 57 survived by his wife, and four sons. His twenty years' service to intensive care at Guy's is commemorated by naming part of this ward as the Alan Yates ward.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 21 December 1990; Guy's Hospital Gazette February 1991, 12-15 with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England