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Biographical entry Hackett, Michael Edward John (1931 - 1991)

MRCS 1957; FRCS 1961; MB BS London 1957; LRCP 1957.

6 August 1931
Morecambe, Lancashire
18 January 1991
General surgeon and Plastic surgeon


Michael Hackett, or Mike, as he was always known, was born on 6 August 1931 in Morecambe, Lancashire. He was the son of Jack Hackett, editor of The Morecombe Visitor and the nephew of Desmond Hackett, the well-known Daily Express sports writer. He was educated at Preston Catholic College and proceeded to National Service as a 'proper soldier' with the King's Own Royal Regiment from 1950 to 1952, playing representative rugger for his regiment and Western Command. He then entered St Bartholomew's Medical School, where his ability to combine hard work with play made him an outstanding student. He continued his rugger career to captain the Bart's 1st XV for two sessions, until a head injury forced him to retire. He was forthwith elected captain of the 1st XI soccer team. The need to have him at Chislehurst Club House on a Saturday afternoon was greater than the requirement for him to have any talent for soccer!

Mike Hackett always wanted to be a surgeon, and following house posts under Professor Sir Edwin Scowen and Sir James Paterson Ross he became SHO to Pennybacker at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. He returned to Bart's as junior registrar on the 'Yellow Firm', drawing inspiration from his chiefs Alan Hunt and James Robinson, and it was at this time that he gained his Fellowship. Not for him the slow ascent to a consultant post, and it is hard to appreciate today the extent of the British colonies at that time, all offering experience to adventurous doctors. Despite the risks of re-entry into the NHS, he successfully applied for the post of surgical specialist to Fiji and lecturer to the Fiji School of Medicine. He met the huge demands of general surgery there by application and skill, and revelled in life on a Pacific island.

On return home in 1968 he decided to take up plastic surgery, and became registrar to John Watson at the London Hospital and later senior registrar to Percy Jayes and Robin Beare at East Grinstead, home of plastic surgery. In 1973 he was appointed consultant plastic surgeon to the North East Thames Regional Unit at Billericay and also to the London Hospital. His early research was on thermography and later on skin homografts and xenografts. His main interest was the treatment of burns and he strove to provide the optimum treatment for patients, despite the long journeys to and from the burns unit which therapy occasionally involved. To Hackett, however, the length of the journey was never a deterrent to seeing a patient - indeed it might be said that the M25 motorway was made-to-measure for him, driving his open-top Mercedes to connect the east and west ends of his practice. Never a man to waste time on committees, he was a strident advocate for improved surgical training and gave example by the way he taught his juniors and his enthusiastic involvement in postgraduate meetings, both in College and his region. By drive and nagging of wealthy patients and companies he established a research unit from which future plastic surgeons will reap the benefit. He maintained contact with a wide circle of surgeons both from home and abroad, enabling him to found the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons and the European Association of Plastic Surgeons. Death deprived him and the surgical world of Presidencies of both, and also that of the RSM's Section of Plastic Surgery.

Mike was an impressive man in any gathering, extrovert, bursting with energy and ideas and always finding time for a few witty words. Coronary artery disease developed early, held at bay for a few years by a bypass operation at Barts, to return bringing sudden death after seeing his last patient in Harley Street on the 18 January 1991. He was survived by his wife Gillian Heather, consultant anaesthetist to St Bartholomew's Hospital.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1991 302 957, with portrait. Information from Dr Heather Hackett].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England