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Biographical entry King, Kevin Francis (1933 - 2005)

MB BS Melbourne 1957; FRCS 1960; FRACS.

6 May 1933
St Kilda, Victoria, Australia
3 July 2005
Orthopaedic surgeon


Kevin Francis King was an orthopaedic surgeon in Melbourne, Australia. He was born in St Kilda, Melbourne, the third child of Thomas King, one of the first recognised orthopaedic surgeons in the city. His mother was Nina Mary King née Keyes, the daughter of an Irish general practitioner based in the north of the state of Victoria. On his father's side, there was history of medicine in the family in Birmingham in the 19th century.

He was educated at Xavier College, Melbourne, where he played cricket. He entered the medical school of the University of Melbourne in 1951, qualifying in 1957. He became a resident medical officer at St Vincent's Hospital and in the second year worked for a period of time under his father in the orthopaedic department. This determined his choice of career as up until this time he had not paid much attention to orthopaedics.

After completing his residency years, he moved to London, having decided upon a career in surgery. He sat the primary FRCS while a resident at the Royal College of Surgeons in Lincoln's Inn Fields. After this time, he was a resident at Queen Mary's Hospital, Stratford. He passed his final exams to gain his FRCS in 1960. He then embarked on a career in orthopaedics, obtaining a resident post at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, where he came under the influence of the renowned Sir Herbert Seddon. This equipped him with skill, experience and exactness of examination in clinical orthopaedics, particularly in peripheral nerve injuries. There was many a registrar who shuddered when asked to perform a brachial plexus examination in Kevin's presence. After this, he moved to a registrar post at the London Hospital, a demanding job in a busy department, where junior staff were exposed to sharp criticism by the department head, Sir Reginald Watson-Jones, for any shortcomings.

In 1964, his father retired and he returned to Melbourne. His fiancée, Patsy Coakley, one of four daughters of an Irish doctor in Yorkshire, followed him and they were married in Melbourne in that year. In addition to following his father in private practice, he initially held clinical appointments in orthopaedics at both St Vincent's and the Royal Children's Hospital, giving him further experience in paediatric orthopaedics.

Along with a colleague, Jonathan Rush, he commenced the first specialist orthopaedic service at the Western General Hospital. His tireless work as head of the unit resulted in the first accredited orthopaedic registrar being appointed in 1984. In 1985, Kevin took on the daunting task of revitalising the orthopaedic department at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and established a successful elective orthopaedic unit at Essendon Hospital, as well as overseeing a busy trauma unit. He was director of the department of orthopaedics until his retirement in 1998.

Kevin made significant contributions to the practice of orthopaedics. He published one of the first papers on intramedullary fixation and crossbolting of femoral shaft fractures. He was on the editorial board of the British Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and was heavily involved in the affairs of the Australian Orthopaedic Association (AOA) and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. He was instrumental in expanding orthopaedic training to country hospitals in Victoria and was chief examiner for the AOA. He served as president of the AOA in 1991 and gave his presidential address at a combined meeting with New Zealand in Christchurch. He served the AOA for many years with distinction.

Although Kevin sometimes had a somewhat fearsome reputation, especially as a senior surgical examiner, he was scrupulously fair and took a keen interest in helping younger surgeons. Perhaps his greatest legacy has been teaching and mentoring orthopaedic surgical trainees over the years, and he was especially proud of the increasing number of female orthopaedic surgeons.

Kevin was widely read and had a particularly keen interest in naval and orthopaedic history. His library was well stocked and, importantly, well read! Although he enjoyed cricket, he was not enthusiastic about the more combative sports. Those of us present at weekly orthopaedic case conferences over the years will always remember Kevin's turn of phrase, often introducing a relevant orthopaedic opinion with an historical, amusing quotation.

He continued to work after he ceased operating and had a very successful medico-legal career until his final retirement in 2014. One suspects there are many barristers who were glad to see him retire as Kevin always relished the challenge in the courtroom. This was perhaps the one combative sport that he enjoyed!

Unfortunately, his wife passed away just after Kevin's retirement and this deeply affected him. He died on 3 July 2015, aged 82. He was survived by his son Paul, a respiratory physician, and his daughter, Catherine. Another daughter, Helen, had died in childhood.

Richard de Steiger

Sources used to compile this entry: [St Vincent's Hospital Medical Alumni Association. Summer 2015-2016 e-newsletter - accessed 4 February 2017; The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons In Memoriam Kevin King FRACS - accessed 4 February 2017].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England