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Biographical entry Hunter, Gordon Andrew (1937 - 2015)

MB MS London 1960; MRCS LRCP 1960; FRCS 1964; FRCSC 1970.

25 May 1937
11 June 2015
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Orthopaedic surgeon and Trauma surgeon


Gordon Andrew Hunter was a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, the first and largest level one trauma centre in Canada, and professor in the department of surgery, University of Toronto. He was born on 25 May 1937 in London into a medical family. His father, John William Hunter, who was born in Fife, Scotland, was medical officer of health at East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital. He died when Gordon was 10 years old. His mother, Antoinette Smyth, was Irish and an orphan. She trained as a nurse and after her husband's death became matron of two convalescent institutions in Suffolk for the veterans of the Second World War. Gordon's older brother, Ian Anthony Hunter, became a family doctor in New Zealand.

Gordon was educated at Epsom College. He kept in touch with and contributed to his school until he died. He began his medical education at University College London, qualifying in 1960. He won several prestigious awards, including the Fellowes silver and Belasco medals.

His postgraduate surgical training included two appointments at University College Hospital, London, and then one at St Mark's Hospital, London. One of Gordon's mentors was Max Rosenheim, who taught Gordon that 'every patient should leave your office feeling better, despite the delivery of bad news'. Throughout his career, Gordon tried to live by this standard.

It was at his registrar appointment at Birmingham Accident Hospital that he developed his life interest in trauma. This was followed by a registrar year at University College Hospital, London, followed by a senior registrar year in Kingston, Jamaica, at the University of the West Indies, also with a large trauma volume. From 1966 to 1969, he was a senior registrar at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, in trauma and orthopaedics.

Gordon and his family went to Canada in 1969 as a senior clinical fellow to David McIntosh, a renowned orthopaedic surgeon, especially in the field of knee injury. Following his fellowship year in Toronto, he was offered a consultant post at Sunnybrook Hospital, a University of Toronto teaching hospital. He joined the staff in 1970, and remained there until his retirement from active practice in 2002, mainly for health reasons.

He was especially active at the Sunnybrook Centre for Independent Living (SCIL), where he ran the amputation service and was involved in foot and ankle problems, especially in the diabetic patient. He was instrumental in initiating a foot and ankle educational program in the orthopaedic division at the University. He was later appointed medical director of SCIL, a position he held until his retirement from active clinical practice at Sunnybrook. Following his retirement, he maintained his interest in orthopaedics by working as a consultant for Canadian Trauma Consultants until 2013.

His interest in trauma remained foremost in his career. He was an early member of the prestigious Hip Society, and wrote many papers on the natural history and results of treatment of hip fracture and dislocations. The Hip Society awarded him the Otto Aufranc award for outstanding research in 1976.

His trauma interests evolved into the difficult problems of limb salvage and amputation, another area where he wrote extensively. He became a world authority and was a sought after speaker on that subject.

Gordon had a passion for mentoring and teaching. In 1986, the year he became a full professor at the University of Toronto Medical School, he was awarded the prestigious Bruce Tovee award in surgical education. To the residents progressing through the trauma rotation at Sunnybrook, he was a true mentor. He influenced many to remain in a career in trauma care. To his surgical colleagues, he was a loyal friend. He had an interest in every case, and would openly share his experiences.

In his early years, he enjoyed tennis, sailing and swimming; he and his wife showed much common sense moving into their home with a pool in the Lawrence Park area of Toronto, almost across the street from the trauma centre at Sunnybrook; he could easily walk to work. He was an avid gardener. As he was forced to slow down by his health concerns, he enjoyed being with his family in the countryside. Often, I would see him walking his treasured dog Benji, in the beautiful parkland at Sunnybrook. He always maintained a keen interest in world affairs.

Gordon met his wife, Virginia ('Gini') née Smith when he was a registrar at University College Hospital, London, and she was a third year nursing student. They married in February 1965 and shared their lives together for 50 years. They had two children, Carolyn and Jonathan, and five grandchildren (Thomas, Emma, Alexandra, Campbell and Sophie).

His first cardiac bypass procedure was in 1984; he recovered and continued working as an orthopaedic consultant. His second cardiac bypass procedure was in 1993, a very difficult period for him and the family. He again was able to return to work in orthopaedics. In spite of being critically ill at the time of his cardiac procedures and other illnesses, his true personality shone through. He greeted us all with a smile and a quip and worried more about us than himself. This attitude remained though his final illness and his time in the palliative care unit at Sunnybrook - 'his' hospital.

Gordon Andrew Hunter will be remembered as a mentor and educator in orthopaedic trauma. Above all, he treated every patient with care and compassion. His contributions in management of limb salvage and amputation in polytrauma are renowned. He was a wonderful colleague and a loyal friend. He was a man of courage and optimism, even during his many illnesses, always showing that special wry humour. Despite a rewarding career in Canada, he ever remained an Englishman, with fond memories of his frequently visited home county of Suffolk. He died on 11 June 2015, aged 78.

Marvin Tile

Sources used to compile this entry: [Hans Kreber; Joseph Schatzker; James Kellam; David Stephens; Jim Powell; Albert Yee; Gini Hunter; The Globe and Mail 13 June 2015 - accessed 20 October 2016].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England