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Biographical entry Williams, William Gilbert (1928 - 2002)

MA MB BChir Cambridge 1952; FRCS 1959; Mchir 1960.

11 May 1928
Newport, Gwent
12 May 2002
Cardiothoracic surgeon


William Williams was a consultant surgeon in Coventry. He was born in Newport, Gwent, on 11 May 1928. His father, William George, was an engine driver. His mother was Lillian Hyacinth Maud née Jones, a farmer's daughter. He was educated at Newport High School and Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge, going on to Bristol for his clinical studies, winning the surgical anatomy prize. After junior posts at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, he did his National Service in the RAF. He then did registrar posts at the Westminster and St George's Hospitals, before starting his training in cardiothoracic surgery at the Brompton and London Chest Hospitals under Lord Brock and Sir T Holmes Sellors.

He was appointed consultant cardiothoracic surgeon to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, Warwick, in 1967, and moved with his department to Walsgrave Hospital, Coventry, in 1970. Here he had a pivotal role in the development of by-pass surgery for the area, appropriately for a Welshman, doing the first operation on St David's Day. He made a major contribution to a series of successful Coventry conferences on cardiothoracic topics. He was an examiner for the College, was secretary of the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons and adviser in surgery to the chief medical officer at the Department of Health.

He married in 1954 Phyllis Mary Jones, a nurse. They had three children, Huw, Richard and Sian, who did not enter medicine. There are five grandchildren - Gareth, Ben, Leon, Max and Coco. After his retirement he had ten years enjoying reading, music, good food and wine. He underwent two operations for carcinoma of the colon, but developed metastases and died in hospital on 12 May 2002.

See below for an amended version of the published obituary:

Bill Williams was a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Walsgrave Hospital, Coventry. He was born on 11 May 1928 in Newport, Gwent. He studied medicine at King's College, Cambridge, and then Bristol, qualifying MB Bchir in 1952.

He carried out his National Service in the Royal Air Force, where he served on flying stations. He then joined the Westminster Hospital as a surgical registrar, passing his FRCS in 1959. A year later he gained his Mchir. He then undertook further training in cardiothoracic surgery at the London Chest and Brompton hospitals.

In 1967 he was appointed as a consultant to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, Warwick, moving with the department to the newly-opened Walsgrave Hospital, Coventry, in 1970. He played a decisive role in the development of coronary bypass graft surgery for the area, carrying out the first operation on St David's Day - appropriately for a Welshman.

He was honorary secretary to the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons, and during this time co-wrote a paper published in the British Medical Journal which analysed trends in the incidence of mortality in cardiac surgery and regional workload in the United Kingdom ('The UK cardiac surgical register, 1977-82' Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984 289 1205). This provided an important source of information on trends within the specialty, and the authors suggested other surgical specialities might follow their example. This has indeed happened, and since November 2014 surgeon-specific mortality data is, compulsorily, available.

He was a member of the Court of Examiners of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and examined at home and abroad, including the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. He was an excellent examiner. It was without exception an excellent experience to sit with him; his comments were always shrewd, but not unkind.

Following his period on the Court, he examined for the General Medical Council's Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB), and assisted in the preparation of good, searching questions. He was also an adviser in the specialty to the Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health.

Despite illness, he enjoyed his retirement, which gave him time for his hobbies of reading, particularly military history, music and good food and wine. It was fitting that at his retirement from the Court of Examiners the dinner was held at the Honourable Artillery Company, attended by the president of the Royal College of Surgeons and the members of the Court.

He died on 12 May 2002, following surgery for metastases from colon cancer. He was 74. He was survived by his wife Phyllis, three children and five grandchildren.

Norman Kirby

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2002 325 47].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England