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Biographical entry Sumner, Denys Shane (1942 - 2000)

MRCS and FRCS 1970; MB BS Otago 1965; FRACS 1977.

25 November 2000
General surgeon


Denys Shane Sumner was a general surgeon in Auckland and the first President of the New Zealand Association of General Surgeons. He spent his early years on the West Coast of New Zealand, before moving to Wellington for his secondary education. He attended Otago Medical School and worked in Wellington as a house surgeon and registrar, before going to the UK for further experience and surgical training. Denys' work with the breast cancer trials unit at King's College Hospital won him an Hunterian Professorship.

He returned to Auckland in the mid seventies and worked initially at Auckland Hospital as senior lecturer in the university department of surgery. He subsequently entered private practice and moved to Middlemore Hospital, where he remained for the rest of his consultant career.

He made outstanding contributions to surgery. He chaired the Auckland conjoint surgical education committee for many years and was a member of the New Zealand subcommittee of the board in general surgery. Thanks to his vision, advanced trainees in general surgery throughout New Zealand and basic trainees in Auckland were to enjoy a training structure far better than it was before his involvement. As New Zealand censor, Denys streamlined the assessment process for overseas trained doctors who sought vocational registration in surgery in New Zealand. He helped found, and was the first President of, the New Zealand Association of General Surgeons, and established an appropriate relationship between this body and the Australasian College. It was the forerunner of a similar body in Australia.

He was the convenor of the annual scientific congress of the College in Auckland in May 1999. Together with his wife, Faye, he produced a congress of which all New Zealand surgeons and the College was justly proud, and for which Denys was awarded the RACS medal.

As a teacher and educator, Denys projected surgical skill and diagnostic common sense. Every one of his students was influenced by his personality, his enthusiasm, and his ability to get a message across. He had a tremendous personality, love of life, and energy: he had a passion for golf, his garden, and his cars.

He died on 25 November 2000 after a short illness, survived by his widow Faye, and his sons, Matthew, Timothy and David.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England