Sir Keith Ross

Sir Keith Ross, cardiac surgeon

Born: 9 May, 1927, in London Died: 18 February, 2003, in Southampton, aged 75

AS A surgeon, Keith Ross was a much respected and admired figure in both academia and the operating theatre. His warm personality and courteous manner gained respect from his colleagues and patients of all ages.

His intricate knowledge of cardiac surgery ensured he became widely recognised in the profession and although he trained and practised in the south, such was his eminence that he was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, which also awarded him the much prized Bruce Medal in 1989.

A regular visitor to Scotland, he was an avid angler and often came north to play golf. Friends recall that for all his devotion to medicine he was at his most relaxed and happiest playing 18 holes on a beloved Highland course in the afternoon and fishing for trout in the evening.

James Keith Ross was the son of Sir James Paterson Ross, who had been a Surgeon to the Royal Household and had operated on King George VI. Ross attended St Paul’s School and studied medicine at the Middlesex Hospital, from where he graduated in 1950 with honours in anatomy.

After National Service in the Royal Navy, he returned to the Middlesex and qualified in surgery with honours. In 1956 he trained at the Brompton Hospital in cardiology and five years later became a senior registrar at the Middlesex and Harefield Hospitals. But within a year he was asked to join the pioneering work which was being done at the National Heart Hospital under the inspired leadership of the cardiologist Donald Ross.

Donald Ross’s research modernised cardiac surgery and relieved much of the anxiety and suffering which patients had previously experienced. Keith Ross assisted at the first cardiac transplant in Britain and his surgical skills helped to ensure the lengthy and complex operation was a total success.

He carried out much invaluable research at the National Heart - especially in valve replacements. He perfected an operation that literally allowed for malfunctioning valves to be replaced or swapped or to have a prosthetic valve to be inserted. He is remembered at the National Heart with a deep affection and for his "enthusiasm, surgical skills and boundless energy".

Such was his standing in the profession there was some surprise when he forsook the prestigious posts in London and became consultant cardiac surgeon at the Wessex Cardiothoracic Centre in Southampton in 1972. He quickly attracted able young surgeons and research fellows who built up a national reputation for the unit.

He insisted that greater emphasis be placed on post-operative care and that the patient’s recovery be carefully monitored. The monitoring greatly improved quality of life among patients.

The department expanded rapidly and was soon attracting students from abroad - especially the United States. Indeed, such was his reputation that a new unit was opened for open-heart surgery at King Edward VII Hospital in Midhurst.

In 1989 he was made an FRCS of Edinburgh and honoured with the Bruce Medal. The medal, which originated in 1966, is only awarded "now and then to a Fellow for his contribution to surgical knowledge or teaching".

He retired in 1990, which gave him time to fish the Test in Hampshire and spend more time in Scotland on the links and his favourite rivers around Speyside. This most active man also enjoyed painting and to his great personal joy he twice had pictures accepted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Both were sold.

Two years ago, he himself underwent cardiac surgery in Southampton. The operation was carried out by his former colleagues, using a process that he himself had pioneered.

He is survived by his wife, Jacqueline, whom he married in 1956, and four children.