Geoffrey Slaney (M 1947)

Geoffrey Slaney entered Birmingham University Medical School from Brewood Grammar School and qualified with distinction in 1947. After a year as house surgeon at the General Hospital he did National Service as a Captain in the RAMC. He asked to be posted to Hong Kong but was sent to Catterick in Yorkshire. On return to civilian life he became a registrar at the London Hospital, and in Coventry, where he met his future wife Jo.

In 1955 he was offered a one-year post in Chicago with the famous American surgeon Professor Warren Cole, which he took up at the cost of having to postpone his wedding. On return he opted for a career in academic surgery and became a Lecturer in the Department in Birmingham with Professors Stammers and Brooke. He was duly promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1959, to a Chair in 1966 and to the Barling Professorship and Head of Department in 1971.

He was trained in gastrointestinal surgery and continued this interest throughout his career, but it was in the then new specialty of vascular surgery that he achieved national and international fame. He and his friend and colleague Frank Ashton worked, presented and published widely. Their vascular surgeon pupils spread within the region and throughout the UK, several of them leading academic departments. This is one of the most formidable diasporas in UK surgery.

He embraced the wider surgical scene with enthusiasm and success, accumulating 14 visiting professorships throughout the world including Hong Kong where the army had failed to send him! He gave around 160 eponymous lectures, received seven honorary fellowships, edited surgical journals and wrote numerous book chapters and scientific papers. He particularly enjoyed examining for nine universities. Despite his academic activity, he remained primarily a clinician. Because of his standing he received many referrals of difficult surgical problems, which he managed with patience, sensitivity and realism, taking much of the load from the referring colleague.

It was inevitable that he would involve himself with the Royal College of Surgeons. There was a West Midlands tradition of Council Membership with several Vice-Presidencies, but there had been only one President in 1864. Being known nationally, respected and well-liked he was successful in the Council Elections in 1975. He was then elected by Council to the Presidency in December 1982. His predecessor had died in office and he had to take over with no warning during the meeting in which he was elected. He was a popular and successful President, leading a major and essential reform of the surgical trainee career structure.

 

 

He was invested KBE in 1984. On the lighter side he played for the Council cricket team and was proud of making 55 runs at the age of 62! During his Presidency the West Midlands provided simultaneously and uniquely the Presidents of two other Royal Colleges, the Physicians and the Pathologists.

Geoff Slaney was a commanding figure in the West Midlands and the country, with enormous charisma contributed to by his height and appearance. Nevertheless, he was a friendly and approachable man, whose advice was sought widely on many topics, not just surgical. He had absolute integrity and never promised anything that was not delivered. He was one of the great surgical leaders of his generation.

Almost a third of his long life was after his retirement. Despite increasing immobility in the later years he retained his intellect and enjoyed his hobbies. He was proud that one of his daughters followed him to Birmingham University and is now a consultant vascular radiologist. Another daughter is a consultant clinical geneticist.

John Black

© 2017 by Sands Cox Charity.

Designed and Developed by Ruth West