Subscribe to RSS
Professor John Knowles Stanley
John Knowles Stanley was born in Cardiff on March 30, 1944, but grew up in Oswestry in North Wales. From the Boys' High School, he moved to Liverpool University Medical School in 1962, qualifying in 1968. His subsequent career in orthopedic surgery was appropriate, as these places are linked indelibly with Sir Robert Jones, the founder of the modern specialty.
After a first house officer post in Ormskirk, he entered surgical training in the Liverpool region, becoming a Senior Registrar in orthopedics in 1974. In 1979, he returned to Ormskirk & District General Hospital as a Consultant, with sessions at Wrightington Hospital. Shortly after appointment, at the age of 35, he had a myocardial infarction, resulting in bypass surgery. This was a major factor in his decision in 1984 to move to full-time hand surgery at Wrightington. Under his leadership, the unit there grew exponentially, developing a particular focus on the treatment of patients suffering with rheumatoid arthritis as well as other complex problems of the wrist. From 1991, he was joined by more consultant colleagues, creating a renowned center of innovation and excellence. At his retirement in 2009, the Wrightington Upper Limb Unit had 13 Consultants, both orthopedic and plastic, dealing with all conditions of the upper limb, from shoulder to elbow and hand, with a high national and international reputation. This was a testament to John Stanley's professional and leadership skills as well as his personal qualities of commitment, passion and drive combined with pragmatism and perseverance.
Although much in demand, he forsook private practice early in his career. He developed in its place a large medicolegal practice, which did not interfere so much with his family, social life, and hobbies. Such was the quality and clarity of his opinions, that he was required in the witness box only rarely.
John Stanley's research activities, particularly in the introduction of hand and wrist prostheses, produced more than 100 peer reviewed papers in learned journals as well as countless presentations to learned societies. He wrote two books, supplied chapters for 20 more, and delivered many eponymous lectures. He travelled widely, not only in the UK and Europe, but also worldwide, particularly in America, Australia, France and Switzerland, resulting in a long list of honorary fellowships and memberships. A crowning academic accolade was the award in 1996 of a Chair in Hand Surgery by the University of Manchester, a considerable distinction.
He supervised many surgical trainees, a role in which he excelled. Many of these were at the end of their orthopedic training, acquiring a subspecialist polish in hand surgery before taking up their own consultant appointments. He continued to teach at Wrightington Hospital until shortly before his death. He also served for many years as an Examiner for the Intercollegiate Board in Orthopaedic Surgery.
Not surprisingly John Stanley was an active member of the British Society of the Hand, presenting at many meetings, serving on Council, and becoming President in 1999. In 2006, his professional standing and the affection in which he was held by the wider surgical community led to his election to the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons. His College career culminated in his election as Vice-President from 2010 to 2012, a role in which he served with distinction and good humor.
John Stanley's first myocardial infarction happened when he was 35, His subsequent course was complex in the extreme, with three open cardiac operations and numerous other less major procedures. It stretches the bounds of credibility that with such problems he completed a distinguished surgical career and a busy family and social life with his enthusiasm and sense of humor unaffected.
John met his wife Gail when they were both students at Liverpool University, and they married in August 1967, before he qualified. She supported John in his surgical practice throughout their married life; later, her own career blossomed as a magistrate, Deputy Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Lancashire. In turn, he supported her unfailingly, a role well suited to his unassuming, friendly personality. Not surprisingly, both were active in support of the British Heart Foundation.
He had a lifelong passion for aviation, having learnt to fly as an air cadet at school. His heart problems prevented him pursuing this, but he worked as a volunteer in the aeronautical section of the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. He had a serious interest in military history, particularly, but not exclusively, in the Second World War and made many visits to battlefield sites. He managed to take flights in a Spitfire, a Mustang, and a Lancaster Bomber, fulfilling some of his dreams, particularly when he was allowed to take the controls of the Spitfire and found his piloting skills had not deserted him.
John was married to Gail for 54 years. His family were very important to him, and he was a proud father to Sian and James and grandfather to his three grandchildren Asa, Levan and Alexandra. Both Sian and James followed their father into medicine, Sian a GP in Hertfordshire and James a Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon in York.
In both his family life and the world of hand surgery, John touched the lives of many with his kindness, generosity, humor, and professionalism. He was a teacher, trainer, mentor and researcher, a dear friend and colleague and wonderful husband, father and grandfather. He will be sadly missed.
Article published online:
01 June 2021
© 2021. Thieme. All rights reserved.
Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc.
333 Seventh Avenue, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10001, USA