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Biographical entry Shaw, Donald Grant (1953 - 2015)

MB BS Southampton 1981; FRCS 1985; DRCOG 1987; MRCGP 1990.

3 October 1953
24 November 2015
General practitioner


Donald Shaw was a GP surgeon in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, and the Dilke Hospital in the Forest of Dean. He was born on 3 October 1953 in Liverpool as the first child of John and Dorothy Mary Shaw (née Mudie). His two younger siblings, Charlie and Fiona, were born in 1955 and 1957 respectively. Donald completed his secondary education at King's School, Macclesfield, in 1972 and progressed to Bristol University to study chemistry. During those years he also worked as a lab assistant studying, amongst other things, various aspects of Hodgkin's disease. He transferred to medicine at Southampton in 1975, at least in part because he had become attracted to the clinical side of a career in science.

It was during his first year at Southampton that he suffered the first of several medical setbacks that were ultimately to claim his life. With fateful irony, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1976 and endured 12 months of extensive chemo-radiotherapy. Just as he emerged from the gruelling treatment, his brother Charlie was killed in a road accident, but despite these two tragic events, Donald managed to continue with his medical degree and graduated in 1981.

After house jobs in Poole, Southampton and Croydon, he was attracted to surgery and obtained the FRCS in 1985. A stint in obstetrics and gynaecology in Bedford followed from 1985 to 1986 and led him to successfully obtaining the DRCOG in 1987. He worked as a general surgical registrar in Northampton from 1986 to 1989. There he met his future wife Elaine, a nurse on the surgical ward, and around the same time developed the long-term view of working in the community as a GP surgeon. Thus was set in train a series of major changes in the direction of both of their lives and careers. By the end of 1989, he and Elaine were married and living in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, where Donald had joined the Forest Health Care practice as a GP trainee. A year later, he was a partner in the practice.

He revelled in the breadth of skill and knowledge that general practice demanded, as well as the interpersonal connections that rural practice brings. He relished the opportunity to offer his surgical skills both in the surgery and at the local Dilke Hospital, saving many a patient the tedious journey to the Gloucestershire Royal Infirmary for day-case operations. An early adopter of computer technology, he led the process towards a paperless practice in the Forest and the introduction of computerised records. He then moved on to managing the dispensing and purchasing aspects of the practice at a time when, for the first time, individual practices were taking charge of their own budgets and establishing financial links with regional hospital trusts. This led on to several years of committee work and a leading role in the planning of health services for the Forest of Dean as a whole - all the time continuing with a full clinical workload.

With no children of their own, Donald and Elaine devoted their attention to family, friends and other interests. Donald was a loving uncle to several nieces and nephews from both his and Elaine's sides of the family. One great ambition of Donald's came to fruition as he oversaw the design and building of their dream house in the rural village of Hope Mansell, Herefordshire, which was completed in 1996. Built into the floor was a spiral staircase cellar for his extensive wine collection. Over the next ten years their lovely home was the focus for numerous dinners, barbeques and social gatherings for friends, family, work colleagues and neighbours - always accompanied by a generous selection of superb wines from around the world. With a particular love for good food, along with New World wines and, in particular, champagne, Donald and Elaine travelled to Australia, New Zealand and the northern France on numerous occasions, usually returning with several cases of something special. To escape the English winters, they also often holidayed in equatorial locations, the Canaries and Maldives being particular favourites, with fine dining being an integral part of each trip.

Donald developed a love for rugby during his school days, which continued throughout his life. He was a season ticket holder at the Gloucester Rugby Club and attended games there whenever he could. In later years, with the advent of recordable television, he had rugby games to watch at any time of day. One New Zealand trip in 2005 took in several games of the Lions' rugby tour, in addition to many vineyard visits.

Donald became troubled with intermittent dysphagia about this time. A combination of post-radiotherapy stricturing and dysplastic changes on biopsy led eventually to an oesophagectomy in 2006. The operation was technically successful, but left him with impaired eating and recurrent chest infections secondary to radiation pneumonitis. This forced his retirement from practice, and although these problems significantly affected his ability to socialise, travel and enjoy good food, he tried hard not to let them do so. As the years went by his health took further knocks, with progressive radiation-induced cardiac disease and then oral cancer, for which he underwent major surgery in 2014. Despite poor exercise tolerance, and with impaired taste and swallowing, which deprived him of the ability to enjoy his beloved food and wine, Donald remained in good spirits and continued to face his tribulations with good humour. He kept up to date with news and current affairs, reading several newspapers avidly each day and welcoming visitors and the chance to discuss politics, current affairs and rugby. By then essentially confined to his home and with full-time care provided by his loving wife Elaine, Donald's condition declined further as heart failure supervened and he finally lost the battle with his succession of illnesses on 24 November 2015. He was 62.

Donald was an affable, thoughtful and sociable man with an enviable intellect. Well read and always up for a friendly debate, he was prone to carrying the air of someone who knew he was always right - which, to the frustration of some of his antagonists, he usually was! Throughout his life and career, he showed great determination and fortitude, not only in achieving his medical and personal goals, but also in the way he handled his long illness, bearing his ailments with remarkable courage and dignity. He will be missed by his many friends, colleagues and grateful patients.

Bruce Tulloh

Thye Royal College of Surgeons of England