Profession salutes medical knight fully deserving of his reward

I SUSPECT that many people in Scotland may not have registered the significance of the appointment, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, of Professor John Temple, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, as a Knight Bachelor. The citation reads simply "for services to medicine and medical education".

Those seven words encapsulate a CV and history of achievement so extensive that a full supplement to this paper would be necessary to cover it fully.

John Temple was born in Salford, Lancashire, and went to Liverpool University Medical School. He started his medical career in 1965 as a house surgeon at the Royal Southern Hospital, Liverpool, and became a registrar in general surgery at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary in 1968. He was also commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 5th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (TA). Dr Temple continued his medical training in Liverpool and Manchester until becoming a consultant surgeon with a special interest in gastroenterology at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, where he served from 1979 until 1997.

To list fully his appointments in the course of his career, his thesis, his publications, his membership of learned societies and other related posts would extend to several paragraphs. But I should mention that between 1995 and 2000, he was the special adviser to the Chief Medical Officer on Calman implementation (hospital doctors: training for the future), which changed the face of postgraduate medical training.

Now it may strike the reader that there is not too much "Scottishness" within Sir John’s CV and he, too, admits to being only "North British". So you might ask how he became President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh?

The answer is straightforward - why not? After all, RCSEd is not simply a Scottish college. It has its base in Edinburgh and its roots in Scotland - of which we are very proud - but it is actually a UK college with a very extensive overseas following in more than 90 countries worldwide.

Dr John Temple took his fellowship exam in Edinburgh in 1969, and his connections to the college were further sealed with the award of an Ethicon Foundation travelling grant in 1978.

He subsequently became an examiner for the college and postgraduate adviser to the council from 1995 to 1997 and was elected to full membership of the council from 1997 to 2000, from which he was appointed president. One of his greatest pleasures during his presidency was, last year, to be able to present his own son, Robert, with a specialty fellowship. Sir John’s current appointments include chairmanship of the Scottish Audit of Surgical Mortality, chair of the Medical Workforce Review Scotland, chair of the Academic and Research Sub-Group of AGMETS (Advisory Group of Medical Education Training and Staffing), chair of the Specialist Training Authority of Medical Royal Colleges and, of course, he is our president.

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is the oldest medical incorporation in the world and it celebrates its 500th anniversary in 2005-06. The reason why it has survived as long as this is because it has always looked forward, but with due regard to history. It is an innovative college that is not afraid to go out on a limb and stand for what it thinks is right.

It is an open, friendly and forthright college - not an easy stance to take in today’s professional environment.

These characteristics are exactly those of Sir John Temple. The work he has done to change the face of postgraduate medical training has been immense, and only a man of his stature could maintain the momentum and carry it through. And we suspect that his work has not finished, but we will have to wait and see.

Sir John, we salute you.

Jim Foster is the chief executive of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.