|Patrick Stewart Boulter|
|Thursday, 01 April 2010|
Professor Patrick Stewart Boulter, President of the College from 1991 to 1994, died on St Andrew’s Day 2009 and everyone who had the privilege and pleasure of knowing him is left by his passing with a deep sense of impoverishment. Iain MacLaren looks back on his life and career
In as much as he was the first holder of the College’s highest office never to have either trained or practised in Edinburgh, his election to the Presidency is a significant landmark in recent College history but that is the least of the many reasons why Fellows and Members worldwide unite in saluting his memory ith respect and affection. Paddy, as he was always known to his family, his colleagues and his legion of friends from all walks of life, was born to Scottish parents in Annan, Dumfriesshire, in 1927.
During his childhood the family moved to Wimbledon where he attended King’s College School and then, when they returned north to Carlisle, he completed his education at Carlisle Grammar School. This was when he fell in love with the mountains and lakes of Cumbria which were the inspiration of his life-long passion for hillwalking and climbing.
Although domiciled in England for most of his life, Paddy was intensely proud of his Scottish ancestry. Often on special occasions he would wear the kilt and he had a huge enthusiasm for reels and other Scottish dances which he performed with precision, style and panache. He was equally proud of his Border heritage and of his service with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, which entitled him to sport a rose on his hat or in his button hole on Minden Day (1 August).
During his National Service, Paddy met and married his wife, Mary, and this was truly a loving partnership of a couple whose ideals, principles, aspirations and interests were perfectly attuned. In every aspect of their marriage they complemented each other splendidly and their love and the joy of raising their two daughters were the foundation stones of Paddy’s happiness for the rest of his life.
After demobilisation from the Army, Paddy entered the Guy’s Hospital Medical School from which, in 1955, he graduated MB BS with Honours in Medicine and Surgery, with the Gold Medal of the University of London and with the Handcock Prize of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
By the time he had completed his pre-Registration year in resident appointments at Guy’s he was fully committed to a career in surgery and, for his basic surgical training, he moved to the Middlesex Hospital where, under the inspiring influence of Professor David Patey, his special interest in breast cancer was aroused and nurtured.
In 1958, he obtained the Fellowships of both the Edinburgh and English Royal Surgical Colleges and then returned to Guy’s as Senior Registrar. During this period he was immensely proud and delighted to re-visit the land of his forebears for a few weeks as Locum Consultant Surgeon at the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary.
In 1962, Paddy was appointed Consultant to the Royal Surrey County Hospital at Guildford with a special interest in breast and endocrine surgery and in surgical oncology, and his contributions in these fields soon became known nationwide. He had a huge NHS workload, which increased progressively as did also his private practice, but this did not prevent him from participating fully in postgraduate surgical education as Honorary Surgical Tutor at both Guy’s Hospital and the Guildford Postgraduate Medical Centre.
The Royal College of Surgeons of England appointed him a Regional Advisor in 1975 and Penrose-May Tutor in 1985 and, one year later, the University of Surrey honoured him with a personal Chair in Surgical Science.
Paddy’s enthusiasm for teaching, his clinical acumen and his operative virtuosity made him a popular and successful trainer of young surgeons who came from all over the world to learn from him. The relaxed informality of his unit reflected his natural kindliness and geniality, but in relation to patient care he was an exacting ‘Chief’ who demanded the highest standards from his trainees.
It would be impossible to exaggerate the contribution made by Mary’s warm hospitality to the morale and esprit de corps of Paddy’s surgical team. This took many delightful forms but her Christmas parties for the entire staff of the unit and their children were always supremely joyous occasions and are still fondly remembered.
Paddy’s meticulous reports on the value of breast cancer screening first appeared in 1981 and were supported by the findings of similar studies from Professor Sir Patrick Forrest’s department in Edinburgh. This collaborative effort led to the establishment in Guildford of a pilot breast screening unit, the success of which was a major factor in the introduction of the UK national screening programme for breast cancer which many surgeons would regard as Paddy’s greatest monument.
As a fervent expatriate Scot, he had always felt a special loyalty to the Edinburgh College and, after becoming a Fellowship examiner in 1979, his involvement in its affairs increased rapidly. During four years as a member of Council and two years as Vice President, Paddy played an important part in the governance of the College and his election to the Presidency in 1991 was warmly acclaimed by the Fellows. Their high expectations of his leadership were fully realised, particularly with regard to the raising of the College’s international profile through its overseas educational activities. As Chairman of Council he was always absolute master of his brief and this combined with his calm analytical approach to problems ensured the achievement of his presidential objectives by gentle persuasion. In medico-political and intercollegiate negotiations, he always sought consensus but certainly not at any price, and if he perceived any threat to the College’s best interests he could be as obdurate as the occasion might demand.
As President, Paddy travelled widely and proved himself to be a superb ambassador not just for the College but for British surgery as a whole. His cordiality won a host of new friends for the College and mightily strengthened the collegiate spirit of Fellows in many overseas centres. Wherever he went he was a most welcome visitor, whose diplomacy did much to establish for the College a number of important foreign academic relationships.
Paddy retired from active surgical practice in 1991 and, by the end of his College Presidency, he and Mary had left Guildford to settle near Great Salkeld in Cumbria within easy reach of the hills they loved so much.
Here they devoted much of their time to the creation of a beautiful garden and to the revival of their angling skills. Here, also, they had ample scope for hill walking but knee joint problems deprived Paddy of this pleasure. They did, however, look back with pride and pleasure on nearly 50 years of glorious climbing experiences on some of the world’s greatest mountain ranges including the Himalayas, the Rockies, the Swiss Alps and the Alps of Australia and New Zealand. Paddy was proud to be a member of the Alpine Club and also of the Swiss Alpine Club in which he had the honour of being made President of its British members.
Paddy’s professional distinction was recognised by the award of no fewer than 14 Honorary Fellowships or equivalent honours and he received numerous invitations to deliver prestigious lectures in many famous medical schools, but the accolades that gave him the greatest satisfaction were his Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Surrey and the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Both of these related to his work in Guildford over nearly 30 years and the latter was bestowed with deep gratitude for the superb training that he gave to a remarkable succession of antipodean surgeons, all of whom became his lifelong friends.
Paddy Boulter died peacefully surrounded by his loving family to all of whom and especially his widow, Mary, Fellows and Members of the College express their deepest sympathy.
They also give heartfelt thanks for the services to humanity and the remarkable life of a great master surgeon, a compassionate doctor, an inspiring teacher, a wise and far-seeing President and, above all, a good, kind, gentle man.
Iain MacLaren is a member of the RCSEd’s Court of Regents