Intended for healthcare professionals


Rodney Sweetnam

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 15 July 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4481
  1. Anne Gulland, London
  1. annecgulland{at}

Orthopaedic surgeon who championed alternative treatments to limb amputation

The first thing Sir Rodney Sweetnam would do when he came home after a day’s work was to polish his shoes, followed by a session of letter writing to colleagues and former juniors. He followed his former students’ careers with interest and would always write if one of them got an important new position or had performed a particularly noteworthy operation. The handwritten notes would contain words of encouragement, praise, congratulations, or even commiserations, which became important mementoes for the recipients.

Tim Briggs, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, Middlesex, treasures the half dozen or so letters that his former boss wrote to him on occasions such as his appointment as medical director.

“The letters were always well written and written with pride and feeling. I have kept all of them,” he says.

Sweetnam trained as an orthopaedic surgeon and developed an interest in bone tumours, particularly osteosarcoma, which typically affects the lower femur. At the beginning of his career in …

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