Life and success of surgeon Alan Green

PUBLISHED: 12:22 28 May 2015 | UPDATED: 13:00 28 May 2015

Alan Green Obit. Picture: Supplied

Alan Green Obit. Picture: Supplied


A consultant surgeon at four Norwich hospitals, Alan Green, who has died aged 87, had a remarkable instinct for accurate diagnosis.

Alan Green Obit. Picture: SuppliedAlan Green Obit. Picture: Supplied

He became a leading medical obituarist for professional journals for a quarter of a century after retiring fom the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital in June 1990.

After returning for a second stint to Norwich in 1961, later he was given the chance to head East Anglia’s first dedicated urology unit in 1966.

Granted freedom of the City of London in 2004 as a member of his livery company, the Worshipful Company of Barber Surgeons, he was known around the world as a surgeon and professional examiner.

He won a Fulbright Scholarship in 1958 and $4,500 for a year’s medical research and took his young family to the United States aboard the Mauretania. At Boston Hospitals and Harvard Medical School, he 
studied new techniques including cancer chemotherapy and liver transplantation.

Alan Green Obit. Picture: SuppliedAlan Green Obit. Picture: Supplied

Born on July 2, 1927, in Leicester, Norman Alan Green was the second son of four children. His father, also Norman, who was a clerk with the Inland Revenue, had joined up aged 17 to fight in the First World War. When his femur was broken by a German shell at Ypres, he became one of the first to have a metal plate fitted – which amazed doctors 70 years later when they X-rayed his hip after an accident at his golden wedding.

His mother worked extra shifts at a hosiery factory to keep him at the town’s Wyggeston Grammar School. There he excelled at cross-country, was gymnastic champion for three years and played rugby and cricket for the school.

When he decided on medicine, he won a place at St Bartholomew’s Hospital – all his interview questions were on sport.

He won two major undergraduate prizes, the first of many subsequent awards and his MS thesis on anti-cancer agents was accepted in 1964.

He met student nurse Doreen Wright in 1947 when a rugby match was cancelled. Later, while playing for Barts 1st XV on the wing, a knee injury was to end his sporting career. After qualifying in 1950, he was rejected for National Service because of his dislocated knee.

He married Doreen on St Patrick’s Day, 1951 at Bart’s Hospital Chapel – and 60 years later received diamond wedding greetings from the Queen.

NAG, as he signed himself, had decided to specialise in surgery and spent three years in Norwich as a registrar from November 1954, including working at the Jenny Lind Hospital for Children.

Having returned as resident surgical officer, he became a consultant in 1964 at the former N&N and West Norwich as well as covering Cromer Hospital.

While he always made time for his family, he balanced this carefully with the needs of his patients and their families – even making rounds every Sunday before Monday’s busy list.

He worked closely with GPs throughout his career, valuing their expertise and experience. Once, he was persuaded by East Norfolk doctor Tom Stuttaford, later MP for Norwich South from 1970 to 1974, to visit a patient in a remote cottage in the Fleggs. When they returned, he told NAG: “Change your trousers and tell Doreen to burn them. They’re covered in fleas.”

He was a dedicated member of the Travelling Surgical Society and was elected for a three-year term as president in 1989 before becoming its archivist for almost 20 years until his death.

Following his qualification at Barts, he became a demonstrator of anatomy, a field he regarded was too often undervalued as a fundamental requirement for accurate diagnosis.

In 1977, he became a founder member, and president in 1981 of the British Association of Clinical Anatomists, and was a founder member of its American sister in 1983.

An external examiner for the Royal College of Surgeons (England 
and Edinburgh) for 15 years, he travelled widely to Sudan, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and even taught surgery in Nepal.

He was involved in medical causes, societies and charities as well as chairing Wells Cottage hospital committee and sitting on medical appeal tribunals until 2000.

Musical, he had perfect pitch and had played piano to a high standard but loved attending choral evensong at Norwich Cathedral. And his post as honorary medical officer to the Dean and Chapter was a source of great pride.

He leaves a widow, Doreen, four children, Kathryn, Sarah, Rachel and David, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A younger brother, John, survives him.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at Norwich Cathedral on Friday, June 12 at 2pm.

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