Lives of the fellows

Patrick Stewart Boulter

b.28 May 1927 d.30 November 2009
MB BS Lond(1955) MRCS LRCP(1955) FRCS(1958) FRCS Edin(1958) FRACS(1984) FRCP(1997)

Patrick Stewart Boulter (‘Paddy’) was a consultant surgeon at the Royal Surrey County Hospital and Regional Oncology Centre in Guildford, Surrey. He played a key role in establishing the first breast cancer screening centre in the UK and was president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh from 1991 to 1994.

Born in Annan, Dumfrieshire, he was the second child of Frederick Charles Boulter, a civil engineer, and his wife Flora Victoria née Black. The family moved to Wimbledon and he began his education at King’s College School. They later moved north to Carlisle, where he attended Carlisle Grammar School. On being taken on a visit to an operating theatre he decided to become a surgeon. He registered at Guy’s, following his sister, Joy, who trained there as a nurse. Breaking off from his studies to do his National Service as a member of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, he spent most of his time as an operating theatre technician in Colchester.

After demobilisation, he passed the first MB. As he had to wait to re-enter Guy’s, he spent some time at the Cumberland Royal Infirmary, where he was strongly influence by the surgeon, Bill McKechnie. He entered the surgical training scheme at Guy’s and spent two years at the Middlesex Hospital before returning to Guy’s as a senior registrar. There he worked with Sam Wass and Sir Hedley Atkins [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.21]. In 1962 he was appointed honorary consultant surgeon at Guy’s and consultant surgeon to the Royal Surrey County Hospital. When he started in Guildford, he worked as a general surgeon with a particular interest in vascular surgery, but later his interest turned to endocrinology and breast cancer management. Some time afterwards, he was made an honorary professor in surgical science at the University of Surrey in Guildford.

He worked closely with Sir Patrick Forrest in Edinburgh on the development of breast cancer screening, and developed the use of mammography to detect early cancers. Previously any treatment had relied on a patient finding a lump herself, often too late for a successful outcome. In 1978, he set up the first screening unit in Surrey, with his wife Mary, organising 100 volunteers to encourage use of the service, and, from 1981 onwards, his unit published a series of pioneering studies on the subject. A joint Boulter-Forrest study in the late 1980s showed a 25 per cent reduction in death rates over 10 years which proved strong evidence in favour of a national screening programme.

With a high reputation as a teacher and researcher, he undertook many visiting professorships throughout the world. He was popular with his students and effective in his training. He was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1984 in recognition the training he had given to more than 20 Australian surgeons. The author of numerous articles and chapters in books on breast, skin and endocrine disorders, he was also an active member of many societies. These included the Association of Surgeons, British Breast Group, Australia and New Zealand Breast Cancer Study Group, Surgical Research Society, Melanoma Study Group, European Association of Surgical Oncology and International Surgical Society.

In 1991, he was elected president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, having been a member of Council since 1984. It was said that his presidency was ‘characterised by his gently persuasive management of Council and a seemingly endless round of international surgical diplomacy where he able to use his natural charm to great effect’. He delivered a particularly eloquent citation on the occasion of Mother Theresa being awarded the honorary fellowship.

In his youth in Carlisle, he had developed a love of hill walking and climbing which was to last throughout his life. A member of the Alpine Club, and president of the British members of the Swiss Alpine Club, he loved the challenge of new mountain peaks to climb and, when travelling to Kathmandu to conduct the first exams of Nepalese students, climbed with Lord Hunt, the leader of the first successful Everest expedition. He and his wife took up skiing in their 40s and became very keen on the sport. They also shared a passion for fly fishing when they retired to Cumbria. Always proud of his Scots ancestry, he kept his father’s Scottish number plate on several cars and would often break out in the singing of traditional songs when returning from examination sessions.

In 1946, he married Patricia Mary Eckersley née Barlow (‘Mary’), whom he had met in London when about to do his National Service. They had two daughters, Jennifer Bond (‘Jenny’), who was a nurse, and Anne Wood, who became a physiotherapist. When he died in Penrith, his wife and children survived him, together with five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

RCP editor

[Daily Telegraph 4 January 2010; Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh obituaries www.rcpe.ac.uk/obituary/professor-patrick-stewart-boulter-frcp-edin - accessed 11 March 2015; Lives of the fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England http://livesonline.rcseng.ac.uk/biogs/E000993b.htm - accessed 3 March 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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