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GeGeoffrey Donald Oates (“Geoff”)o


ffrey Donald Oates

Surgeon, first president of the Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland (b 1929; q 1953; FRCS), d 2 November 2013.

Geoffrey Donald Oates (“Geoff”) died suddenly in Switzerland, aged 84, en route from his adopted home in Verbier to attend the conference of the British Association of Surgical Oncology. He was carrying his handwritten Christmas cards (for postage in England), which were subsequently posted by Liz, who had to add a note on each envelope that Geoff had died on the way. He would have been very disappointed at the added cost at having to post them in Switzerland owing to the sudden change in events. In the cards that we both received, he related that he and Liz were in great health and that he might not make it to a meeting we were attending in St Gallen a few weeks later, as he was cutting down on his travelling.

Geoffrey Donald Oates was born in Wolsingham, County Durham. Both his parents were teachers, instilling in him the importance of education and training, which remained a focal point throughout his life. He distinguished himself academically and at numerous sports throughout his school, his university undergraduate and postgraduate career with numerous prizes and accolades, among them a first class honours, intercalated, degree in anatomy and physiology in Birmingham in 1950. He went on to complete his undergraduate medical career in Birmingham and subsequently pursued postgraduate surgical training and ultimately a life-time surgical career in Birmingham. He combined his roles of consultant surgeon and senior clinical lecturer at the University of Birmingham with a six year spell as chairman of the division of surgery of the United Birmingham Hospitals.

His formative years in surgical training prompted a lifelong interest in the treatment of cancer and a key part of this was the year he spent with Warren Cole at the University of Illinois, Chicago, USA, as a research fellow and instructor in surgery. His work on experimental and clinical aspects of tumour metastases set the scene for a lifelong career in pursuit of optimal outcomes for patients with cancer.

Geoff was one of the first surgeons in England to introduce the concept of “surgical oncology” and was passionate in pursuit of optimal surgery and multidisciplinary care for patients with cancer, particularly for breast and colorectal cancer, long before the concept of such care evolved. He was pivotal in promoting these principles by founding the oncology section of the Royal Society of Medicine; the British Association of Surgical Oncology; and his pride and joy, the Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland (ACPGBI), whose inaugural president he became in 2000 It was his vision that the association should not to be restricted to surgeons but should embrace all the medical specialties involved.

His many sporting achievements in cricket, hockey, squash, and, latterly, skiing (which he started at the age of 53), were overshadowed by his true love as goalkeeper in the Birmingham University First XI and for numerous other football teams thereafter.

He served as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps as part of his national service in Korea and Japan between 1955 and 1957. During this time he developed pulmonary tuberculosis, eventually cured by streptomycin, although he developed streptomycin induced toxicity with a degree of permanent high tone deafness. This disability he turned into an asset with what many would say a “selective hearing loss” when the need arose.

Predeceased in 1971 by his first wife, Mollie, he leaves Liz, whom he married in 1973, and two children from his marriage to Mollie (his son, John, a consultant ear, nose, and throat surgeon and a leading expert on otology; and his daughter, Sue).

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