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Biographical entry Markham, David Eric (1936 - 2016)

MB ChB Sheffield 1961; FRCS 1967.

2 May 1936
Dewsbury, West Yorkshire
24 May 2016
Orthopaedic surgeon and Specialist in sports medicine


David Markham was an orthopaedic surgeon at Manchester Royal Infirmary. He was born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire on 2 May 1936, the son of Eric, an accountant, and Betsy, a housewife. At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, David's father was turned down for active service because of a long-term injury and the family moved to Leeds, where Eric became company secretary of Heatons Garment Manufacturers. David attended Gildersome Church of England Primary School and, after being successful in his 11+, Batley Grammar School. Because of a period of illness during the sixth form, he had to take his 'A' levels at differing times. His mother had always said that David wanted to be a doctor since the age of five, so it was no surprise that he applied to Sheffield and Manchester medical schools. He was given places at both, but went to Sheffield because he could start a year earlier. He began his studies in 1954 and qualified in 1961 with prizes in medicine and surgery.

His first house jobs were at Sheffield Royal Hospital, where Douglas Robinson was his surgical consultant. David always wanted to be a surgeon, and his sights were set initially on being a general surgeon. Upon completing his house jobs, he became a senior house officer in the casualty department and then spent two years as a lecturer in physiology at the University of Sheffield. It was during this time that he took his primary fellowship successfully in Dublin. In January 1967, he obtained his fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons. He spent two years on the training programme in Sheffield doing a variety of jobs, including paediatrics and plastics, as well as general and orthopaedic surgery.

It was during this time that he developed an interest in orthopaedic surgery. John Rowling, one of the general surgeons at Sheffield, did take his wife to one side at one point and asked if she could possibly try and persuade him to change his mind about his future career as he felt David had a talent for general surgery.

He became a senior registrar in Sheffield in 1968 working with Alford Dornan and Frank Taylor. He had a lot of respect for both of these surgeons and learnt a lot about the technical aspects of orthopaedics and patient management while working with them. David was one of four senior registrars in Sheffield.

In 1972, he became a senior lecturer at Sheffield Royal Hospital in orthopaedic surgery and remained in this post for six months until applying for the consultant job at Manchester Royal Infirmary. He was successful in this and went there to join a fellow Yorkshire man, Norman Shaw, whom David had known in Sheffield.

David developed his skills whilst at Manchester Royal and took a particular interest in the treatment of soft tissue sarcomas and developmental dysplasia of the hip. He continued his interests in these topics throughout his time at the Royal Infirmary, but also built up a practice in sports medicine, as he was consultant orthopaedic surgeon to Manchester City Football Club for many years. The orthopaedic training programme in Manchester was quite small when David was first appointed, with virtually every senior trainee in the region working on his unit and benefitting from his great knowledge and operative skill.

He developed a private practice, which grew over the years and alongside this became quite involved in medico-legal work. In 1979, he became specialty adviser to the Medical Defence Union (MDU), served on the council from 1980 and was made a founder member of the board of directors in 1991. In 1997, he was appointed as vice chairman of the board and became its chairman and also the president of the company, in which capacity he served until retiring in 2006. His term of office as chairman coincided with enormous change, to the medico-legal environment, in the composition of the board and in the organisation's location (in 2001 it moved from Devonshire Place to Southwark and the Manchester office closed). Peter Williams, the president, comments that throughout this time David put the company's interests first. He will be remembered as a loyal servant to the MDU, who remained true to the principles of the organisation. He retired from the MDU at the age of 70, but carried on his medico-legal practice until 2010, when he finally retired from all clinical work.

In his retirement years, he enjoyed the company of his grandchildren and travel. His mother-in-law lived in Canada until her death in 1991, and he and his wife visited her quite frequently. From then onwards, they travelled in the Far East and Asia, going to many of the countries around Vietnam and Cambodia. During his time as chairman of the Medical Defence Union he had to visit the Australian office quite frequently and used this time to explore Australia.

David was a modest man. He kept his work and family lives separate, but he had endless patience and time for his trainees, colleagues and patients. He was an excellent surgeon, as well as an excellent clinician. He was a superb clinical trainer and many orthopaedic surgeons in the northwest of England owe their enthusiasm for orthopaedic surgery to him. He was troubled throughout his life with deafness, which got progressively worse as he got older and, once he retired, he had a cochlear implant to enable him to once again listen to music and attend concerts. He was an avid gardener, enjoying the cultivation of both flowers and vegetables. He was a great reader and enjoyed watching sport, particularly during his time as surgeon to Manchester City. He played cricket as a teenager and at university.

David Markham died on 24 May 2016 aged 80 and was survived by his wife, Rosalie, and his sons Richard, Paul and Matthew, as well as six grandchildren, to whom he was devoted.

Phil Hirst

Sources used to compile this entry: [Personal knowledge and information from Rosalie Markham and Peter Williams, chairman and president of the Medical Defence Union].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England