Lives of the fellows

Gerald Westbury

b.29 July 1927 d.12 June 2014
OBE(1990) MB BS Lond(1949) FRCS(1952) MRCP(1951) FRCP(1976)

Gerald (‘Charlie’) Westbury was professor of surgery and director of the Institute of Cancer Research at the Royal Marsden Hospital. He was born in London on 29 July 1927, the elder son of Lew and Celia Westbury. His parents were of Eastern European Jewish origin and his father was a tailor. After attending St Marylebone Grammar School, Westbury entered Westminster Medical School, University of London, in 1944 and graduated MB BS with honours in 1949. He did his surgical house appointments at Westminster and the Royal Northern Hospital, followed by National Service in the medical branch of the Royal Air Force from 1950 to 1952. During his service he obtained both his MRCP and FRCS.

On demobilisation, he became a resident surgical officer at the Brompton Hospital, then returned to the Westminster as surgical registrar and then senior registrar to Sir Stanford Cade from 1953 to 1960, interrupted only by a year as fellow in surgery at Harvard Medical School in 1957. In 1960, he succeeded his old chief and mentor, Sir Stanford Cade, as consultant surgeon at Westminster and remained on its surgical staff until 1982. Here he continued the Cade tradition of a multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of malignant disease with his radiotherapist and pathology colleagues. He collaborated with the plastic surgeons in radical ablation followed by reconstruction of the head and neck, and pioneered isolated limb cytotoxic perfusion for advanced melanomas.

In 1982, Westbury was appointed foundation professor of surgery at the Royal Marsden Hospital, and served there until his retirement in 1989. Here he established a sarcoma multidisciplinary unit, which soon achieved worldwide recognition, as well as continuing his interest in malignant melanoma. He was respected not only as a brilliant technical surgeon but also as a shrewd clinician and diagnostician. He served as dean of the Institute of Cancer Research at the Marsden from 1986 until 1992.

Westbury held important appointments outside his duties at the Marsden. He was a consultant surgeon to the Army from 1980 to 1989, president of the British Association of Surgical Oncology from 1989 to 1992, and was appointed fellow of the Institute of Cancer Research in 2000. He examined widely in surgery, including London, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Hong Kong. He was appointed OBE in 1990.

After retirement in 1989, Westbury served as trustee of a number of charities and enjoyed his hobbies of music, bird-watching and walking.

In 1965 he married Hazel Frame, who died shortly before her husband. They had three daughters, one of whom, Charlotte, is a clinical oncologist. Westbury died on 12 June 2014, aged 86.

Harold Ellis

[The Telegraph 11 August 2014; BMJ 2014 349 5194]

[Reproduced, with permission, from the Royal College of Surgeons’ Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows Online]

(Volume XII, page web)

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