Sir Jack Dewhurst Memorial Lectures

 Sir Jack Dewhurst died in 2007 aged 86. He was one of the leading Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of his generation and was internationally recognised in his area of expertise - paediatric and adolescent gynaecology and intersex disorders. He dealt with difficult and complex cases, many of which required skilled surgery and in so doing he demonstrated his great qualities as a compassionate and caring doctor.

He was Professor and Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, London University, from 1967 until 1985 and President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists from 1975 to 1978.

Christopher John Dewhurst was born at Garstang, Lancashire, on July 2 1920. His father was a market gardener, his mother a district nurse. He was educated St Joseph's College, Dumfries, but spent whole summers at the local cricket club, Fylde.

Dewhurst read Medicine at Manchester University and after qualifying in 1943 joined the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve and took part in the Normandy landings. After the war he flirted briefly with paediatrics and then joined the obstetrics and gynaecology department in St Mary's Hospital, Manchester, as a trainee.

His mentor in Manchester was James Scott Russell who, when appointed to the chair at Sheffield, recruited Dewhurst to join his department as lecturer. He spent 15 years there, for the most part as first assistant, and was appointed Reader in 1960.

It was during this time that he developed an interest in intersex disorders and adolescent gynaecology that, academically, were to be his areas of greatest achievement.

In 1967 Dewhurst was appointed Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School based at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospitals in London. Having been first assistant for so many years, Dewhurst showed great assurance in his decision-making. For example, he ended at a stroke the insularity of the institution, which was heavily weighted in favour of London graduates, developing a more open recruitment policy.

Never the domineering Professor, Dewhurst was calm, thoughtful, self-disciplined and cerebral. Every word was weighed and chosen with care. If one of his team had a problem he would work out the solution calmly and logically.

When he first arrived at Queen Charlotte's there was some excellent research being conducted, such as that on fetal blood sampling; Dewhurst expanded the research programme by opening the doors to talent from all over the world, making Queen Charlotte's and the Post-Graduate Institute into an international centre for innovative research. This is reflected by the number of his team who themselves subsequently became Professors and Heads of Department; six were appointed to chairs in Britain and two to chairs in Australia.

Dewhurst was a prolific author of scientific papers and books. He wrote or co-wrote 13 medical textbooks, two of which became classics: his Practical, Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology and the Dewhurst's Textbook of Obstetrics and Gynaecology for Post Graduates, which became a bible for Specialists and Trainees throughout the world.

Dewhurst was a consummate committee man. Even when he felt very strongly on a particular issue, he would always let the various protagonists argue for about 40 minutes before saying: "Gentlemen, may I suggest a compromise?" In fact, it was what he had wanted from the start, but the exhausted combatants were always happy to agree. He was a pragmatic and consensual President of the RCOG who steered the College through many of the ethical controversies of the day, such as that surrounding in-vitro fertilisation, which was pioneered during his watch.

He was also a fine orator. His speeches were never dull, being always laced with anecdote and subtle humour. As president, Dewhurst travelled widely to all the Commonwealth countries, including South Africa, and also to the United States, where he was especially popular. He was awarded Honorary Fellowships from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and the Colleges of South Africa and Australia. In 1977 he was knighted for his services to the Royal College.

He had a passion for medical history, especially as it related to the Royal Family. With the pressures of the presidency lifted, he wrote an absorbing book called Royal Confinements: a Gynaecological History of Britain's Royal Family (1980), which analysed some of the historical myths surrounding royal births. He followed this up with the definitive history of Queen Charlotte's Hospital.

In 2008 and with the support of Lady Dewhurst the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology instituted the annual Sir Jack Dewhurst Memorial Lecture in his honour.

 

Roll call of lectures:-

2008    Mr J Richard Smith MD FRCOG , Consultant Gynaecologist,

            Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London

            Uterine Transplantation

 

2009    Dr Gerry Conway MD , Consultant Endocrinologist,

            University College Hospital, London

            Adult Outcomes of Disorders of Sex Development

 

2010    Professor Christopher RJ Woodhouse MB FRCS FEBU,

            Professor of Adolescent Urology, University College London

            A Guide to Congenital Abnormalities for the Gynaecologist


2011    Dr Joseph Sanfilippo Obstetrics,Gynecology and Reproductive

            Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

            Pediatric Adolescent Gynecology: Where Have We Been?

 

2012    Dr Dan Apter, Chief Physician and Director of the Sexual Health

            Clinic, Väestöliitto, Finland

            Improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health

The Society was delighted to invite Dr Dan Apter to deliver the 5th Sir Jack Dewhurst Memorial Lecture. Dr Apter is well known within the world of Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology, having been President of the Finnish Society of PAG between 1994 and 2009. He was also a member of the executive board of FIGIJ from 1995 to 2010, being President of FIGIJ from 2001 to 2007. He remains on the editorial board of JPAG and was Editor of the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health until 2010. As well as his clinical commitments he has somehow found the time to publish 87 original papers, 41 reviews, 39 other papers and 216 abstracts in the area of endocrinology of puberty, development of polycystic ovarian syndrome, sexual health and contraception and HPV. His lecture was regarding the developing sexual health of adolescents.

 

2013     Professor Anne S Garden, Honorary Consultant in Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology, Alder Hey NHS Foundation Trust, Centre for Medical Education, Lancaster University, Lancaster 

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