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Biographical entry Monks, Peter Joseph Wilkinson (1922 - 2016)

MB BS London 1944; FRCS 1951.

3 March 1922
Warrington, Cheshire
11 August 2016
General surgeon


Peter Joseph Wilkinson Monks was a consultant general surgeon at Torbay Hospital, Devon. He was born on 3 March 1922 in Warrington, Cheshire. After attending John Lyon Grammar School in Harrow, he studied medicine at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London and qualified in 1944. During his preclinical years, in the early period of the Second World War, the medical school was evacuated to Cambridge; as a clinical student and junior doctor back at the Smithfield site, he treated casualties of the London Blitz and experienced the bombing of the hospital.

After the war, while training with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, he met a young WRNS officer, Phyllis, who was to become his wife in 1947. They were married for 66 years until Phyl's death in 2013. They had three daughters, Valerie, Alison and Nicola.

He served as a surgeon lieutenant at Greenwich Hospital, before moving to Birmingham, where he became a demonstrator of anatomy at Birmingham University under Solly Zuckerman and he was also the attending doctor for the newly-formed Mobile Blood Transfusion Service. He then took up a post in surgery as a registrar and later senior registrar to Robert Milnes Walker at Bristol Royal Infirmary. He gained his FRCS in May 1951.

In 1958, he was appointed as a consultant in general surgery at Torbay Hospital, where he helped design and commission the new surgical block and operating theatres. He consulted at Torbay, Paignton and Newton Abbot hospitals. His interests lay in abdominal surgery, especially biliary problems, as well as breast cancer and thyroid surgery.

Having carefully observed and examined his patients, he always listened to their stories as part of his diagnostic method. He treated each as an individual, reassuring them to give confidence in the procedure that lay ahead.

A highlight of his professional life was the training of junior staff, both doctors and nurses, where he showed an interest in their career development and in passing on his expertise, while always being ready to learn from others. Mike du Preez, who worked with Peter, was moved to say in his condolence letter to the family: 'My abiding memory of Peter is that of a skilled surgeon, a kind and considerate man - unfailingly so with his patients at the Torbay Hospital. His influence shaped my own career and for that I shall always remember him and be grateful that I am able to say that I knew and respected him.'

In the course of his work, Peter saw the value of good end of life care and was a founding director of Rowcroft Hospice.

Throughout his career, he was an active member of the Society of South West Surgeons, as well as the Milnes Walker Surgical Travelling Club.

Towards the end of his career, he and Phyl bought a farm in Devon, where he was able to combine his work and his love of the outdoor life. After retirement, he served for a number of years on the regional panel of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.

Peter passed on his love of the medical profession and the NHS to his family. His daughter, Valerie, became a doctor and is married to Peter Sleight, a physician. One of their sons worked in human resources for the NHS in Bristol. Alison's daughter became a clinical scientist in medical physics, nuclear medicine. Nicola is a clinical scientist in embryology and one of her daughters is a junior doctor. All nine of his grandchildren follow professional careers, influenced by his unfailing support, interest and guidance.

Peter Monks died peacefully at home on 11 August 2016. He was 94.

Valerie Sleight
Nicola Januszewski
Alison Dawson
Peter Sleight

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2017 358 3857 - accessed 19 October 2017].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England