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Biographical entry Beaugié, John McNicoll (1939 - 2017)

BSc London 1960; MB BS 1963; MRCS LRCP 1963; FRCS 1967; MS 1972.

Born
26 September 1939
Folkestone, Kent
Died
23 February 2017
Occupation
General surgeon

Details

John Beaugié was a consultant general surgeon at North Middlesex Hospital, London. He was born on 26 September 1939 in Folkestone, Kent, the eldest of five children. His father, Donald McNicoll Beaugié, had been a missionary doctor in Nigeria before succumbing to ill health and returning to the UK to become a local general practitioner. His mother was Audrey Beatrice Beaugié née Pond, the daughter of a farmer. After attending the King's School, Canterbury, John arrived at the London Hospital in 1957. After an anatomy BSc, he qualified in 1963, but more importantly met and married his fellow medical student, Ann Hughes, in 1962.

His surgical training was at the London Hospital, where in 1971 he completed an MS thesis on 'The gastrin-like polypeptide and bile flow'. He taught one of us as a medical student and is vividly remembered for his elegant good humour. After completing a procedure to excise bilateral fistula, his boss John Hermon-Taylor remarked: 'Your side looks better than mine.' 'Oh no' said John, 'I would never be so indiscrete.' His respect for Hermon-Taylor remained throughout his life. Indeed, John even asked that donations in his memory be sent to support the Crohn's MAP (mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis) vaccine pioneered by Hermon-Taylor. But John's true surgical mentor was J E 'Sam' Richardson, who inspired his interest in the thyroid gland, culminating in his book Principles of thyroid surgery (Tunbridge Wells, Pitman Medical) published in 1975 while he was still a senior registrar. Thyroid surgery remained his special interest throughout his career and it is a chilling irony that his death arose from a thyroid malignancy he knew was incurable.

He was appointed as a consultant at the North Middlesex Hospital in 1976 and Ann became a consultant anaesthetist at the Royal Free Hospital. The hospital sector in north east London was facing problems and when John took a role at the district health authority he found he was buffeted by criticism from both colleagues and administrators. The changes he helped see through have however stood the test of time.

John was very generous to his younger colleagues. In the case of the registrars this was characterised by his support in managing emergencies. If there was a difficult operation to be performed, he would quietly make his way to theatre and sit in the coffee room. Thus, he was able to assist if needed, yet didn't undermine the trainee's confidence. To his consultant colleagues his guidance and encouragement was also quietly given when requested. For example, his recommendation to keep an operative diary, a practice he dated back to a previous hospital strike whilst at the London Hospital, was the best piece of advice one of us ever received on appointment to the North Middlesex.

In the 1990s, he learnt the technique of laparoscopic cholecystectomy and introduced this to the North Middlesex in his own way, cautiously and safely, and was proud to have none of the surgical disasters that plagued the introduction of the technique elsewhere. His approach was not appreciated by the hospital management, who arranged a supposed expert to audit his cases behind his back. This was perhaps just one factor that led him to join a rising tide of dissatisfaction amongst the consultant body that resulted in a vote of no confidence in the management of the trust, which promptly changed for the better. No one expressed this issue with greater clarity and clearer principles than John.

Having weathered this storm, he surprised his colleagues by taking early retirement in 1994. They did not know that he had been developing a machine tool business and could now fulfil his lifelong love of engineering. At his instigation, his retirement dinner was held at the factory, at a dinner table he had made in the shape of a thyroid gland, and attended only by his previous registrars who came en masse. He now had time to indulge his love of travel, including skiing and scuba diving. His happy retirement was however blighted by the tragic accidental death of his son Edward in 1998, a loss that scarred the family deeply. Eventually he gave up the business but continued in his workshop at home to make presents for his grandchildren and a clock he made for Ann that still keeps excellent time.

John and Ann created a most wonderful home in Highgate, London, above Waterlow Park. He constructed a workshop at the top of the house, from where he could experiment with designs whilst overlooking the increasingly extravagant constructions of 21st century London. He was a widely read and thoughtful man, and was very brave in his final illness. It was fitting that he was able to spend his last days in this home, which he loved so much, surrounded by a family which he adored; he died there on 23 February 2017. He was 77.

John Beaugié had humour, vision and a strong sense of what was right and how a doctor, a consultant and a surgeon should behave in an uncertain world. He will be remembered with love and affection, not just by Ann, his children, Huw and Sian, and his grandchildren, but by former colleagues and particularly his former registrars, who he guided, mentored and supported.

Jeremy Wood
David Melville

The Royal College of Surgeons of England