Damien Anthony Mosquera FRCS, FRACS
25 May 1959 - 21 May 2014
Born in 1959 Damien grew up in Liverpool, the eldest of three sons born to Margret and Tomas. His paternal grandparents were Spanish immigrants who ran a successful business in the port of Liverpool. His father Tomas, a serving First Officer in the Merchant Navy, suffered a fatal accident on board ship dry-docked in Port Chalmers in the mid 1960's starting the family connection with New Zealand.
Damien had a happy childhood, beginning his education at St Joseph's Catholic Prep School, Childwall, and he was proud of the fact that he was the head altar-boy at Bishop Eton Church, earning considerable pocket money performing at weddings and funerals. He continued on to St Francis Xavier's college, then Liverpool University and Medical School, graduating in July 1983. Damien made many lasting friendships during this time and one of his proudest moments was being named captain of the football team.
After working as a house surgeon in Liverpool, Damien progressed into surgical training via a year as an anatomy demonstrator. He obtained Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1988 and, after a period of research, was appointed as a Consultant General & Vascular Surgeon at Birmingham Heartlands & Solihull NHS Trust where he also held a post as Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham. Damien had a passion for evidence based medicine. If there was a right way to do things he wanted people to know about it, and if the right way wasn't known he wanted to find out what it was. After completing his surgical training he undertook post graduate research into endothelial proliferation in vascular grafts, gaining his Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Birmingham in 1992. His pursuit of knowledge and truth did not diminish in the subsequent years in the UK, nor after coming to New Zealand, as he regularly presented papers at scientific meetings and published in peer-reviewed journals. In the process he became known as a mentor to surgical trainees looking to undertake research projects the outcomes of which he jointly published with them.
While working as a registrar at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital Damien's eyes met those of the nurse on the opposite side of the table and they were locked for ever more. Damien and Eileen married and had seven children who they brought to New Zealand, when they made a lifestyle decision, with Damien taking up a post as Consultant in General and Vascular Surgery at Taranaki Base Hospital in 2002.
Surgical training at Taranaki was significantly enhanced by Damien's arrival there, in no small part due to his efforts. In 2004 he was admitted to Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the following year appointed as the Hospital Supervisor of Surgical Training. Damien thus came to serve on the New Zealand Committee of the Board in General Surgery, a post which he held until prevented by illness in 2013. Although there is no official deputy chair of this Committee, in later years he effectively fulfilled this role, accepting the responsibilities of the Chair when they were unavailable. In 2008 he was appointed Head of Department at Taranaki and in 2010 selected to serve on the Hospital Credentialing Committee.
Clinically, Damien was astute and compassionate; admired by his colleagues as a strong team player with excellent decision making, and loved by his patients for his empathy and integrity. When Damien saw a need he would do something about it. Shortly after arriving in Taranaki he set up a dedicated leg ulcer clinic which continues to the present. When the hospital lost its interventional radiologist, Damien undertook further training with the aim of performing these procedures himself. Damien's passion for the dissemination of knowledge also led him to develop a vascular surgical website shortly after arriving in New Zealand and which he kept updated with current surgical knowledge, even as his illness progressed. While the website was ostensibly set up for the education of his patients, it was often used as a 'go to' resource by his colleagues. The Vascular Society of New Zealand will maintain this site as a tribute to Damien. There was never a 'too hard basket' for Damien; even when his illness prevented him from being allowed to drive to work he bought an electric bicycle so he could continue to make the trip independently.
Damien demonstrated a richly layered life based on simple pleasures, strong faith and an extraordinary sense of humour. He was a talented cello player and, with his seven children, a great fan of football, supporting Liverpool of course. Damien had a strong faith and his church was part of his life - in his later years he took up studying theology and philosophy. Never one to push his religion on others he perhaps quietly sought to help them see the light. When one colleague asked if there was anything they could do to help during his illness, the answer was a simple "well, you could pray for me".
Damien died on 21 May 2014, aged 54, his life and career tragically shortened by a brain tumour, an illness borne with courage and dignity. To quote his signature song sung at many medical reunions, 'He did it his way'. Damien is survived by his wife Eileen and seven much loved children Tomas, Patrick, Daniel, Damien, Maria, Sean and Elizabeth, three of whom are hoping to follow in their father's footsteps.
David Adams FRACS, Michael Fancourt FRACS, Justin Roake FRACS and Eileen Mosquera all contributed to this obituary.