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Biographical entry Evans, Barrie Thomas (1946 - 2015)

BDS Sydney 1971; FDS RCS 1976; MB BCh Wales 1981; FFD RCSI 1983; FRCS Edin 1985; FRCS 2001.

10 December 1946
3 July 2015
Dentist and Oral and maxillofacial surgeon


Barrie Evans was a consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Southampton General Hospital. Born to Australian parents in India on 10 December 1946, he came from a family with a long tradition of horse racing, hence a diverse education that took him to England, India, Hong Kong and Australia for his schooling. His grandfather, William Evans, won the Melbourne Cup on Apologue in 1907 after losing 20 pounds to make the starting weight. The jockey fainted during the race, yet he still managed to finish on the 3/1 favourite; a sign of the fortitude and determination, perhaps, of his yet-to-be born grandson.

Barrie graduated from Sydney University in 1971, passing his bachelor of dental surgery degree with honours after being ranked top of his year. After testing the water in dental practice in his native Australia, Barrie came to realise that his thirst for knowledge was, as yet, unquenched, and sought out opportunities abroad. He managed to secure a post in the oral surgery department in Cardiff in 1974, where his love for surgery first became manifest. During this period, a medical degree to pursue a career in the burgeoning specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgery became a necessity, and, after greatly impressing his consultants as a diligent house surgeon, Barrie secured a place at Cardiff University to study medicine, graduating in 1981.

Barrie completed his surgical training in Cardiff, St George's, the Royal Dental, Odstock and Southampton hospitals, and also spent time abroad to hone his surgical skills in Switzerland and Sri Lanka.

Barrie was appointed as a consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Southampton in 1988 and quickly established himself as a visionary and trailblazer by transforming a local oral surgery department into a nationally and internationally recognised centre of excellence in the evolving areas of craniofacial and skull base surgery. Barrie's love of anatomy, particularly relating to the skull base and orbit, was the harbinger of the close relationship he developed with neurosurgical colleagues in Southampton. This began with John Garfield when Barrie was a senior registrar, and this revolutionary cross-specialty co-operation continued apace following his concurrent consultant appointment with Glenn Neil-Dwyer.

Barrie was a founder member of the British Association of Skull Base Surgery in 1992. He went on to publish many thought-provoking and challenging papers that contributed to the rapid advance of his chosen sub-specialty, and his work with fellow oral and maxillofacial surgeons and neurosurgical colleagues in the contemporary management of craniofacial trauma led to a re-evaluation of how craniofacial injuries were managed throughout the United Kingdom. Even at the time of his death, Barrie was still devoting many long hours to a collaborative, prospective study he was leading into frontobasal fractures of the craniofacial skeleton.

Barrie developed an exceptional ability as an ablative cancer surgeon based on his peerless anatomical knowledge and experience, and, with colleagues, went on to establish a respected head and neck cancer service, a forerunner to the busy practice that is currently evident in Southampton today.

Barrie was not only a gifted surgeon, but he was also an entertaining and informative speaker and teacher, who was always in demand. He presented many papers and delivered 140 invited keynote and eponymous lectures at national and international meetings based on his reputation for the diagnosis and management of craniofacial injuries. He published over 40 papers, the majority of which were as the first-named author, in peer-reviewed journals, and wrote 14 book chapters. In addition to being an innovator and an inspirational leader, Barrie excelled as a surgical trainer and teacher, always having time for trainees, no matter their station, spending many hours teaching and tutoring them in the preparation for presentations and examinations.

Barrie was awarded the president's prize at the British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons annual scientific conference in 2000 for his paper, 'Post traumatic orbital reconstruction - the concept of the "deep orbit"'. He was awarded the Down's surgical prize in 2006, an accolade awarded annually to a surgeon who has made a major contribution to the specialty throughout his career.

Barrie was appointed as a civilian consultant adviser in oral and maxillofacial surgery to the Royal Navy and served in this post until the time of his retirement from the National Health Service in 2012, a remarkable achievement for an Australian who only became a British citizen in 2014!

Barrie held many administrative posts of note, including lead clinician for cancer services for Southampton from 1996 to 1998, but his most pleasurable achievement was the year he spent as president of the British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons in 2009.

Barrie would undoubtedly acknowledge the fierce and loyal support that his wife, Christine, always afforded him. Outside of work, he loved pacing the common in Southampton with his dogs, keeping himself fit by running and swimming. He read widely and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of history and horse racing.

Who will ever forget his smiling face; the multi-coloured bow ties - hand tied, of course; his beloved small, round glasses; his empty pockets when queuing at Costa; an abysmal sense of direction; an uncanny talent to lose keys and telephone with repetitive ease; a unique taste in music and, of course, a memorable lack of political correctness?

Barrie was still working when he died on 3 July 2015 and retained a great zest for his family and work. He was 68. He leaves behind Christine, whom he married in 1986, two step-children, Alex and Leighton, and five step-grandchildren, Rhys, Gabriel, Roxanne, Darcey and Cayenne.

Nick Baker

The Royal College of Surgeons of England