David Lewis Crosby

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 06 July 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b2750
  1. B I Rees

    David Lewis Crosby performed the first renal transplant operation in Wales and established the principle of high dependency units in acute medical care.

    He was born, bred, educated, and spent most of his professional life in Cardiff. After house jobs in Cardiff, he did his national service with the British Army on the Rhine as medical officer to the 77th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment. David made the most of this time, enjoying the many varied experiences of army medical life and learning German to a standard that often surprised both German patients and visiting medical students.

    He was casualty officer in Cardiff Royal Infirmary and registrar in general surgery in Swansea but realised that to improve his opportunities he needed research experience. He applied successfully for a post in the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Boston, and was taken into research projects with Professor Francis Moore. This included research in the transplant team. He was research fellow at Harvard during 1960-1.

    When he returned from the United States he did a spell in general practice in Brecon to keep his young family fed and watered!

    From 1962 to 1964 he was surgical registrar at Hammersmith Hospital, Royal Post Graduate Medical School.

    Senior registrar jobs at that time were not easy, but he applied successfully for a senior registrar post at Cardiff Royal Infirmary. Pat Forrest, the then professor of surgery, was in the new mode of academic surgery—a discipline which David had already been exposed to in the US and the Royal Post Graduate Medical School.

    After only 18 months as a senior registrar he successfully applied for a consultant appointment in general surgery/transplantation at the age of 34. He performed the first kidney transplant operation in Wales. At the same time as establishing a transplant unit, David’s general surgical workload was increasing greatly, and after five years of taking the lead surgeon role in transplant operations, David wanted to appoint a consultant colleague and have a greater input into the research programme. This he found in Professor John Salaman.

    Soon David was able to concentrate on general surgery. David’s practice was varied and covered the full range of general surgery. He trained many senior registrars, who took on senior positions throughout the United Kingdom, and wrote up first clinical experience of a high dependency unit.

    Among the areas that David embraced was surgery of the elderly because he felt there was a need and there was a very large ward of elderly patients under the care of Professor John Pathy.

    With his friend and colleague Dr Gareth Rees, consultant anaesthetist, they wrote a book and review articles on Surgery of the Elderly. At the same time David and Gareth thought that a high dependency unit should be set up for the safer and better management of patients. They were among the first to establish such a unit in the United Kingdom. This has had a profound affect on the management of patients with acute disease.

    In the latter part of his career David became involved in management as a representative of the hospital consultant staff on the Hospital Authority Team, then full member of the South Glamorgan Health Authority Team.

    He was awarded an OBE for his services to medicine in 1995.

    When David retired in 1995 he was appointed to the chairmanship of Cardiff Community Trust.

    Also, as well as serving on the board of governors of a local school, he found time to do a legal degree and helped to set up the Medico-Legal Society in Cardiff. He became a form of prison visitor at Cardiff prison and then took on the chairmanship at Cardiff prison.

    Throughout his professional life and his illness he was strongly supported by his wife, Dr Gwenda Crosby. They had three children—William, Tom, and Alice—and eight grandchildren.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b2750


    • Former consultant general surgeon University Hospital of Wales (b 12 November 1930; q Welsh National School of Medicine 1953; OBE, FRCS, LLM), died from prostate cancer on 1 November 2008.

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