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Biographical entry Stevens, Jack (1926 - 1995)

MRCS and FRCS 1956; MB ChB Cambridge 1949; MD 1963; FRCS Glasgow 1963; FRCS Edinburgh 1955.

Ingleton, Yorkshire
10 August 1995
General surgeon and Orthopaedic surgeon


Jack Stevens was born in Ingleton in Yorkshire and was proud of his West Riding roots. He won a scholarship from his school to Christ College, Cambridge, where he distinguished himself in the rowing club, as well as academically. He graduated MA, MB ChB in 1949, and spent two years as a National Service Medical Officer in the army.

Having decided on a career in surgery, he presented himself to Sir Charles Illingworth at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow, one of the major academic centres of general surgery in the UK. He was appointed to the post of Hall Fellow in the University Department of Surgery and obtained the Fellowships of the Royal Colleges of Edinburgh, London and Glasgow between 1955 and 1957.

He was persuaded to move into orthopaedic surgery by Professor Roland Barnes, also at the Western Infirmary. In 1957, he was awarded a Commonwealth Fund Fellowship to visit Chicago, where he spent eighteen months studying the properties of living and dead bone at the Research and Education Hospital, under the direction of Bob Ray. This work led to an MD from the University of Cambridge in 1963.

He returned to the Western Infirmary in Glasgow as senior lecturer and began his lifelong interest in the surgery of the hip and especially of fractures of the femoral neck. In 1961 he was awarded the Robert Jones prize and gold medal of the British Orthopaedic Association.

In 1965 he was invited to return to Chicago where he was appointed chairman of the orthopaedic department of Cook County Hospital, with responsibility for 13 residents and 264 beds. His success in this post led, in 1967, to his appointment to the post of professor of orthopaedic surgery in the University of Chicago. He developed his considerable talent for organising and running a large academic department, and his rare qualities as a teacher of undergraduates and postgraduates were recognised by several awards in Chicago.

In 1972 he was invited to accept a newly-established chair of orthopaedic surgery at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Neurology was the dominant specialty in Newcastle at that time, while orthopaedic surgery was disorganised, with no structured training schemes. Jack Stevens often referred amusingly to 'working at the University of Neurology-upon-Tyne'. Within five years the orthopaedic department had become a centre of excellence, with approval of the training programme for orthopaedic senior registrars in 1974. The meeting of the British Orthopaedic Association in 1976 was held at Newcastle.

Jack Stevens continued his interest in and research on proximal femoral fractures and published several important papers on this problem. He served on the executive committee of the BOA from 1978 to 1981, and was President Elect from 1981 to 1982, but was prevented by illness from becoming President in 1983.

He retired from the chair of orthopaedic surgery in 1987, but continued to work with the Medical Protection Society as senior advisor in orthopaedic surgery, becoming chairman of the cases committee in 1988 and remaining fully occupied with this work until he died.

Jack Stevens' qualities included loyalty, humility, honesty and a Yorkshire forthrightness which was tempered by a good sense of humour. This often enabled him to defuse a tense situation or a pompous colleague with a witty or amusing remark.

His essentially practical nature as a true generalist of the old school and his ability to see problems and difficulties from the patient's point of view made him much in demand for second and third opinions. He loved constructive argument and discussion; even the most junior members of his team felt valued.

Many orthopaedic surgeons throughout the UK owe the start of their careers to Jack Stevens, and all of his 'boys' were assured of his continued support.

He died on 10 August 1995, survived by his wife Isabel, (also a doctor) and by his two sons, Phillip and Mark, with whom he spent many happy hours ten-pin bowling or on the golf course.

Sources used to compile this entry: [J Bone Jt Surg Br 1996 78 337-8, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England