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Professor Mike Keighley becomes President of our 1868 Society

Monday, 01 February 2016

The School would like to say a big thank you to John Bush (OM) CVO, OBE, JP, Former Lieutenant of Wiltshire, as he steps down from the presidency of the 1868 Society, and take this opportunity to announce that Professor Mike Keighley (OM and former Governor), has agreed to become the new President.

Details of the 1868 Society are available at:

http://www.monktoncombeschool.com/monkton-foundation/about-the-foundation/1868-society1.html

I was born in the Maternity Hospital that was run by my mother, because most of her medical colleagues were serving with the RAMC, which included my father who patched up forces badly injured in occupied Norway and on D.Day plus one. Dad never spoke about the casualties only delivering a French mother’s baby, and milking the cows on the beaches because there were no others there to do these tasks.

Sent to Monkton, we travelled by steam train with chums from four other families living in Yorkshire. I made many wonderful lifelong friends at MCJS and MCS. The letters home were full of rugger, rowing, pranks and the results of matches, not a word about work! Despite failing English Language O level 5 times (Dick Hole gave up on me), and because in those days there was no such thing as A level grades, they admitted me to St Bartholomew’s Hospital. The interview only enquired if I planned to row in the Hospital boat which I naturally honoured.

Being a medical student in those days only involved two exams over five years. Many of my fellow students in London were Old Monktonians, and most of my opponents on the tideway were also chums of mine from schooldays. My bar bills mounted so I was glad that the Canadian Government were offering $100 a week for students to experience Newfoundland (hopeful for recruitment in that back of beyond). The day I arrived, the American surgeon in charge ushered me round to a shed behind the hospital building, and made me repair a pig’s prolapsed rectum. This was the start of my colorectal surgical career! This was where I first learned to operate before returning to take my finals.

Work only really began after I qualified. I married another doctor, a Leeds graduate and we settled down to work and enjoy family life with our two offspring who were also later to become old Monktonians, just as unruly as their father, I only recently discovered.

Surgery is an apprenticeship and in those days you learned on the job as well as studying for the surgical exams. I soon found myself immersed in an academic surgical career in Birmingham when the NHS was all about service (no litigation in those days) because we loved it and wanted to learn. These were 180 hour working weeks of on call and living in whilst studying, being a hopeless father and climbing the academic ladder, but I have no regrets. We discovered C. difficile and even in 1976 predicted that it would become a “superbug” that could prove almost impossible to eradicate. Another first was to develop an operation to avoid stoma bags for young people with colitis using stapling devices that made the surgery quick and safe. As a consequence, patients would be referred  from all over the UK and parts of the rest of the world for this operation. We had a research team with doctors from all over the globe working in an incredible multicultural environment of academic endeavour. The product, over 500 publications and a number of books. As a consequence, I spent much time overseas as a visiting professor: Harvard, Cape Town when Nelson Mandela was released from Robin Island, Leiden at the invitation of the Queen of the Netherlands and many others. The work of promoting bowel cancer screening in Europe involved  collaboration with Pope John Paul who had himself been a sufferer. A legacy which seems likely to continue has been the “Bible” of Colorectal Surgery in two volumes started by two of us in 1980 and now in its fourth edition as a multi-author international reference work.

There comes a time when working with a headlamp down at the bottom of the pelvis becomes an occupational hazard and I was keen to see what new things I might explore outside the shackles of an increasingly regulated and care less health service. It was an old Monktonian who suggested I quit and work at the Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore South India. There followed an amazing serendipity, a vacant locum consultant post in my department was filled by Benji, a guy at  CMC who had been asked to set up a new colorectal unit, but with very little experience in the new technologies. We worked together, became close friends and so I decided to retire and do new things.

For over twelve years I visited CMC to operate with Benji and his team, teach, assist with Postgraduate meetings and undertake collaborative research. To fund this and other aspirations: becoming a student again, inventions and charitable activities I set up a business as an expert witness for the courts. The BDRF (Bowel disease research foundation) was my first endeavour in which we managed to turn around an organisation with £100K in a bank that was doing nothing, to an organisation which raised over £5 million in 10 years, thereby funding over 200 research projects. An MA in Theology and Health at Durham was the catalyst to the other charity: the MASIC foundation. Although as a surgeon I had repaired many childbirth injuries which had rendered mothers incontinent of waste, I had not appreciated the devastating impact that this unspoken taboo had had on their self-esteem, dignity, motherhood, and their isolation in society.

They have no support, no one to talk with, no advice over intimate family matters and treatment never cures.  So  another new adventure begins to see how best we can provide support, awareness, prevention of these injuries and a change in health policies that will improve their well-being.

I now seem to be back on the Monkton scene and through the initiative of John Bush who initiated the 1868 Society, we might be able to generate a few ideas to support Monkton as we celebrate the forthcoming 150th birthday.

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