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Obituary: Sir Rustam Feroze

The following is the text of a eulogy to Sir Rustram given by Mr Ric Warren at the March 2010 meeting of the RCOG Council.

What makes a great man or woman?

I remember Sir Rustram with admiration and affection. He was a great man.

Sir Rustram was my first ever consultant when I started specialist training at Kings
College Hospital in the late 70s. Despite being the lowest member of the team I was, nevertheless, made to feel welcome and special. He truly cared and supported the welfare and careers of his trainees. He was a tremendous role model in all that he did.

I am grateful to Sir Stanley Simmons who wrote the obituary for Sir Rustram and from which much of this information is taken.

Sir Rustram Feroze was better known to his friends around the world as “Mole”
He was the consummate surgeon, one of the most skilful and dedicated gynaecological surgeons of the post-war era.

Sir Rustram’s early clinical skills were developed during the war, within the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve and subsequently he went on to work at the Soho, Samaritan, Chelsea, Middlesex and King’s College Hospitals.

Mole was educated at Sutton Valence School, King’s College and King’s College Hospital. In 1943, at King’s, he qualified MRCS, LRCP . On qualification he served with the Royal Indian Navy in a frigate off the Arakan coast – off Burma. After three years, of war surgery, in 1946, he returned to King’s as House Surgeon. This was just prior to the start of the NHS. Sir Stanley describes the time ......... ‘spotless hospitals with nurses in pristine starched uniforms – guarded by an all-powerful matron. House surgeons wore white coats and ties and pay was negligible. Medical students still played rugby for England!’

Sir Rustram acquired the MRCOG in 1949, but 1952 was very much the pivotal year in his career, acquiring not only a London MD and the FRCS but also when still only 31 years of age, he was appointed Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist to King’s, Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital for Women.

Sir Rustram had a distinguished and influential career, excelling in all that he did. He had a charming character and he was an inspirational teacher at a time when obstetrics and gynaecology was as much an apprenticeship as a science. Like all who worked with him I felt it a wonderful privilege.

He was a great clinician and a great teacher, but he will probably be remembered most because of his surgical skills. He was simply one of the best ever surgeons. He made even complex surgery look easy, tissues seemed to naturally part and there was no bleeding! Brought up in the tradition of the Chelsea and Middlesex Hospitals, he performed radical operations for cancer with precision and ease. His techniques and style were copied by many but I, personally, have seen no one to equal his skills. To see him operate was a rewarding experience for any surgeon.

His value as a postgraduate teacher was recognised by his appointment as Dean of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1967, a post he held in addition to his many other clinical duties until 1973.

He joined the RCOG Council in 1971, and served on the Examination and Hospital Recognition Committees – both of which he ultimately chaired. He was a major influence on the College’s Postgraduate Training Programme and its examinations system.

He became Director of Postgraduate Studies in 1975, a post he held until 1981when he was elected as President of the College. He brought to that office a wide-ranging knowledge of the problems faced by obstetricians and gynaecologists in a changing world and he directed the activities of the College with cheerfulness and the charm that was his characteristic. His talent for leadership was recognised further when in 1982 he became Chairman of all the Royal College, the Conference of Royal Medical Colleges, later to become the Academy.

He published widely in medical journals and in newspaper letters but was recognised primarily for his contributions to “Gynaecological Oncology” and “Bonneys Gynaecological Surgery”.

He received many honours at home and abroad, in the shape of Eponymous Lectures and Honorary Fellowships in America, Ireland, and Australia and was an examiner at the Universities of London, Cambridge, Birmingham and Singapore.

Sir Rustram was forward thinking and quickly recognised the potential of medical links with Europe; something that is still developing today. Active in the Foundation of the European Association of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, he became its first president in 1985.

With such a profound influence on his discipline, his social, professional and caring skills are easily passed over. He was ever in demand by his colleagues to attend their wives, the ultimate accolade of clinical skills and caring. He carried out his work and many other hospital medical school activities with unfailing good humour.

He was knighted for services to medicine in 1983.

Sadly, his retirement was marred by the premature death of his daughter Mary in a domestic accident and more recently by failing health. - yet he never complained.

When I last met him, despite his frailty he was charming. I was still in awe of his achievements and the continuing warmth of him as a gentleman. He was loved and admired by all who knew him.

He leaves a wife, Margaret, an ex King’s Radiographer and three sons.