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John Ireland

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 10 September 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5461
  1. Shahla Samsami,
  2. Mustafa El-Zebdeh

John Ireland was a true giant of British orthopaedic knee surgery whose surgical excellence, clinical judgment, and genuine and longlasting care for his patients inspired enormous affection and loyalty.

John trained at the Westminster Hospital, qualifying in 1966. His first house job was on the orthopaedic firm, working for H E “Ding” Harding, who became a mentor and friend. He served as ship’s surgeon on the steamship Canberra in 1967, acquired his fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1969, and was appointed surgical registrar at Hillingdon Hospital.

He gained a place as a registrar on the training programme at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital but had already arranged a post as the general surgeon to a hospital in a remote part of Papua New Guinea, and was surprised and delighted when the RNOH agreed to delay his start there for six months.

In New Guinea he would see diverse surgical experience in an extremely primitive setting, working 40-50 hour, six day weeks in tropical heat, often performing 16 operations in a day. He described the natives as fairly tough: an inguinal hernia would only be remarked on if the size of an avocado, complained of at the size of a pawpaw, and actually considered worth the journey to hospital if the size of a coconut.

On his return to England and the RNOH, John worked in all the various subspecialties—children, spines, hip replacements—but it was working on the knee, especially for the late Lorden Trickey, that he found his particular interest.

Having chosen his specialty, he set about achieving mastery of …

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