Roger Blamey HON FRACS
Breast Surgeon
1935 - 2014

It is with great sadness that we learned of the death on 1 September 2014 of Roger Blamey.  Roger was a titan in the field of breast surgery and breast cancer management both nationally and internationally.  His achievements are far too numerous to list.  He had a tremendous gift for applying meticulous critical analysis to observed clinical behaviour.  He inspired numerous other breast surgeons and fully understood the power of the multidisciplinary team.  He was instrumental in the creation of the Association of Breast Surgery (ABS) through the organisation of the initial UK Breast Surgeons' meetings and guideline writing committees under the auspices of BASO.  His energy, vitality and drive were awe-inspiring and in combination with great charisma would frequently carry the floor in any heated, passionate clinical debate of which there were many.  Roger was great company and equally relaxed with the young, budding surgical research fellow as he was with an acclaimed medical world authority.

He will be greatly missed but his memory and accomplishments will truly live for many years to come.

Kieran Horgan

President Association of Breast Surgery


Professor Roger Blamey, of Southwell, died on Monday aged 79 after an illness.

He carried out the first kidney transplant at Nottingham City Hospital in February, 1974.

The city later became a regional centre for kidney transplantation and one of the top places in the UK for operations on children. More than 1,700 people have had the procedure, including more than 330 children.

Professor Blamey became a pioneer in breast cancer research and was behind the opening of the Nottingham Breast Institute at City Hospital, which provides diagnosis and treatment.

The man who succeeded him at its helm in 2001/02, Mr Douglas MacMillan, said: "He was a titan in his field. It is difficult to think of someone who achieved or contributed more.

"Professor Blamey made Nottingham nationally and internationally known in the field of breast cancer research and treatment, and made the city one of the world-greats.

"Nationally and internationally he was one of the greatest for breast cancer research.

"People came from all over the world to meet, listen to and work with him. He is the reason I came to Nottingham from Glasgow."

Mr Macmillan said Professor Blamey was a professor of surgery and did the first renal transplant in Nottingham, but was best known for achievements in breast surgery.

"He was a pioneer in breast screening, fundamental in setting up the breast screening programme in the UK," Mr Macmillan said.

"He set up the Nottingham Prognostic Index, which defined individual treatment for women according to their particular prognosis.

"In the 1970s he set up the multi-disciplinary service for breast cancer, which for the first time put together a surgeon oncologist, radiologist and breast pathologist in a cohesive team approach - a system employed today.

"Professor Blamey was the best and a true pioneer. He set the standards for how woman should be treated.

"He was instrumental in lots of the guidelines on how treatment should be provided that are employed in the UK and Europe.

"He wrote 150 articles and 50 books or chapters in books that have been read all over the world."

Professor Blamey worked in Australia and was made an honorary fellow of the Australasian College of Surgeons.

Mr MacMillan said: "He was someone who always had time for everyone.

"His patients came first and he was as comfortable in the bar with one of his research fellows as he was on stage debating breast cancer in front of hundreds or thousands of people.

"The news is just disseminating through the field and a lot of people are emailing their tributes and describing their meetings with him.

"Professor Blamey was a workaholic. He was devoted to it and it was his life.

"He was also a huge family man and always proud of his family."

Professor Blamey lived at Westhorpe and is survived by his wife, Mrs Norma Blamey, two daughters and a son.

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Born in London, Roger was educated at Highgate School London, and Downing College, Cambridge University. He represented his College in rowing and rugby. His clinical training was undertaken at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, London. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons four years later, following which he was awarded a Research Fellowship with Professor Pat Forrest in Cardiff. He was awarded an MD from Cambridge in 1969 for his thesis on "Immunological aspects of Tumour growth". Following a further clinical post with Professor Roy Calne, he came to the Department of Surgery at St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne as Senior Lecturer for two years.

He participated in all Departmental activities, but in particular assisted in the developing renal transplant program. He showed a keen interest in other clinical/research activities within the hospital, and visited a number medical scientists working elsewhere in Melbourne and interstate. He made friends easily and to their mutual enjoyment.

Roger had brought with him his wife Norma, and three young children. They rented an apartment in Parkville from which they enjoyed exploring Carlton, the MCG and the Victorian beaches. Brian Collopy invited him in 1972 to watch the opening day of the Boxing Day Test against England, from the comfort of the Members Stand. But before a ball was bowled and while they were still in Brian's car the heavens opened, as if on Roger's cue. The rain did not stop and the Test was washed out without a ball being bowled-- but he did witness the first One Day International between the two teams put on as a replacement!! He loved our beaches but not the summer bushfires. He drove from Adelaide to Melbourne on Ash Wednesday and lived to tell the tale after several anxious moments. He loved recounting the details!

On his return to Britain he completed his surgical commitment in Cambridge before his appointment as Senior Lecturer in the University of Nottingham in 1973. The new medical school, including the Department of Surgery headed by Professor Jack Hardcastle, was mainly sited at the University Hospital, but Roger had the task of establishing a separate Unit in the City Hospital. He did this with great vigour, flair and success. In 1980 he was appointed Professor of Surgical Science.

In 1973 renal dialysis and transplantation were not readily available and young patients were dying who could have been saved.

Professor Hardcastle wrote:

"With the support of a local physician, Martin Knapp, and the local emergency department he performed the first renal transplant in February 1974. At the end of the year, 10 of the first 12 transplants were still functioning-a rate better than the Region's Designated Centre, and the first dedicated dialysis unit was established. Surgeons with an interest in transplantation were appointed, thus giving Roger an opportunity to turn his attention to breast disease. "

He played a pivotal role in the introduction of the UK breast screening program, and established a multidisciplinary approach to the early diagnosis and management of breast cancer. With the help of his pathology, radiology, radiotherapy, nursing, and oncology colleagues, and after following the progress of patients in detail over a number of years, he developed a simple Prognostic Index as an excellent guide to assist clinicians select the most appropriate treatment of the primary tumour. He supervised many research fellows, some from Australia, and conducted biennial two day conferences on all aspects of breast cancer and its management. The lecture theatre was always packed with clinicians from several different disciplines, many coming from overseas. Keen debate was guaranteed, with no punches pulled. Many returned. His reputation in this area grew rapidly and he received many invitations to speak at home and abroad, including back at St Vincent's.

He was a regular Guest Speaker at our own special meetings on Breast Cancer. Along with occasional support from Paddy Boulter and Pat Forrest he gave the meetings a special atmosphere of fun mixed with pearls of wisdom. The meetings proved very popular and always attracted a full house. He was invited to speak interstate and attracted a number of Australian trainees to his unit. Three came from St Vincent's. He was a special Foundation Visitor to the Breast Section at Annual Scientific Meetings of the College on more than one occasion. In 1994 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. He was very proud of his Australian connections and remained a great sponsor and friend of Australians in Britain.

Professor Hardcastle writes further:                                                              

"It is difficult to overestimate the impact Roger's work has had on the lives of women with breast cancer. The guidelines he helped produce for the management of breast cancer stimulated the development of multidisciplinary treatment and the emergence of the specialist breast surgeon. He was a leading force in the creation in 2010 of the Association of Breast Surgery, which is now the fastest growing sub-specialty in the UK, with more than 1,200 members. He was the leading force in the 2003 opening at the City Hospital of the Nottingham Breast Institute, which now provides for the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of 35,000 breast cancer patients annually. The Education Centre at the Nottingham Breast Institute is appropriately named after him."

His death, on 1 September 2014 after a long illness, came as a surprise to many. He always seemed too full of life, energy and new ideas to die. Glowing tributes were paid in obituaries appearing in the British Medical Journal, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian and local papers. The quotations used above were taken from the obituary provided by Professor Hardcastle and published in the Guardian, 12 September 2014. His loss will be felt by many, including his Australian friends. To his wife Norma and the family we extend our most sincere condolences.

Richard Bennett AM FRACS