27 October 1952 - 12 March 2014
Richard Horton tragically lost his life in a motor vehicle accident while on his way to work on 12 March 2014. He was 61 years old.
Richard had been an orthopaedic surgeon in Shepparton, Victoria, for 29 years. Born and raised in Melbourne in the suburb of Brighton, he went to Haileybury College and then to University of Melbourne, graduating M.B.B.S. in 1976. Following resident jobs in Melbourne and Hobart he decided to do orthopaedics and finished the training program in 1984. He did not enjoy the politics of working in large orthopaedic units, and while considering his options, he went to Shepparton with his wife and family to do a locum for Roger Coates who was then a very busy sole orthopaedic surgeon.
Initially this was meant to be for a few months but he enjoyed the experience so much he stayed and remained there until his untimely death.
Richard relished the challenge of building an orthopaedic unit in a regional centre. He and Roger Coates developed outpatient clinics and set about persuading the hospital, then called Goulburn Valley Base Hospital to purchase the equipment needed to perform both elective and trauma surgery. They worked on a one in two roster without the assistance of a registrar, in an era before regional trauma centres, when all road accidents were taken to the nearest hospital. Thus they dealt with all of the trauma for the whole Goulburn Valley Region and adjacent areas of New South Wales, in addition to a huge and previously neglected reconstructive patient load.
The workload was prodigious, holidays of either of them meant a period of continuous On Call, and still with minimal junior staff cover.
Richard thrived in this environment. He had a wealth of knowledge and common sense, combined with an easy and self-effacing manner. He rapidly became a widely respected and well liked colleague and community member.
He bought a farm at Dookie to which he subsequently moved, and had interests in cooking, wine and travel. He had little interest however in adopting the newest and latest developments in orthopaedics. He liked to stay "two or three fads behind" as he would say.
This common sense approach meant that he had a great ability to get to the essence of many complex management situations. He was the voice of reason that temporised the enthusiasm of his colleagues on many occasions.
It was however his role as a teacher and mentor to junior staff and registrars that he made his greatest mark. He gave the orthopaedic trainees great support, and was always available for advice and teaching. He was enormously hospitable. Many a journal club was spent at Richard's house in front of an open fire in winter and the proceedings were often enlivened by a contribution from his fine cellar. The time spent with Richard was undoubtedly the highlight of their rotation to Shepparton, and they all enjoyed reacquainting themselves with him at conferences and meetings long after they had finished their training.
The orthopaedic unit at what is now Goulburn Valley Health grew and consolidated on the base built by Richard and Roger Coates, and it is now thriving.
Richard left Goulburn Valley Health 18 months ago to "wind down a little", but despite some health scares he continued to work hard in private practice, and still attended clinical meetings and journal clubs where his input was always enjoyable.
His recent tragic, sudden and violent death has been a huge personal and professional loss to the entire Goulburn Valley community, and indeed the whole of the orthopaedic community of Victoria and Southern New South Wales.
He is survived by his wife Ruth, children William and Georgia, daughter-in-law Bridget, grandson Alex, and mother Peg.
Obituary kindly provided by Ian J Critchley FRACS