Born: November 17, 1939; Died: August 29, 2013.
Dr James Monro, who has died aged 73, was one of the most-respected heart surgeons of his generation and a pioneer of congenital heart surgery, particularly recognised for his corrective cardiac surgery on babies. Until his death, he was President of the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Britain and Ireland. Although born in Singapore and educated in England, he was extremely proud of his Scottish ancestors in the medical field. As a young man he was a rifle shot for Scotland at international level and throughout his life enjoyed playing links golf on this country's courses.
He came from a long line of Scottish doctors from the Monro of Fyrish, Easter Ross, a branch of the Clan Munro, who made their mark in London during the 18th and 19th centuries, notably for their work on melancholia or what was generally labelled as insanity or madness. In 1728, one of his ancestors, also Dr James Monro, became principal physician at the notorious Bethlem hospital, better known as Bedlam in the vernacular, at the time in Moorgate, London, the first institution in Europe to deal specifically with mental illness. The post of principal physician stayed in the Monro family for four generations.
He was born in 1939 in Singapore, where his father had been posted as a surgeon and professor of medicine. He had just turned two, in December 1941, when the Japanese threatened Singapore (they were eventually to capture it two months later) and he, his American mother and eight-week-old sister were evacuated via Australia to her family home in Virginia. His mother's grandfather was Major Walter Reed, the US army physician who proved that yellow fever was transmitted by mosquitoes. James's father spent the war as a Japanese prisoner before the family was reunited in 1945.
Back in England, he trained at the (Royal) London Hospital in Whitechapel, broken up by a two-year spell in Auckland, New Zealand. In 1973, he became a consultant cardiac surgeon at Southampton General Hospital where he would spend the next 30 years, the rest of his career. During those years, he operated on more than 12,000 patients, 2,000 of them children, and saw the hospital become a world leader in cardiology. He wrote two significant books on cardiac surgery as well as numerous papers in medical journals.
On hearing of his death, one of his former patients in Southampton blogged. "Thank you Mr Monro for giving me a life. Without your skills I would not be here today. I would not have been a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a friend. I remember you even coming into the Children's ICU on your day off back on 5th September 1975 to see me after a seven-hour open heart operation you performed. You will be missed by many but never forgotten by those you have touched."
Dr James Monro was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006 but continued to paint, ski and play golf and tennis. He is survived by his wife Jane and three children
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