Roger McKenzie Chambers FRCS(Eng) FRACS
29 July 1936 - 7 February 2019 

Roger (known as “Rog” throughout his life) was born in Auckland to Jack (Ian) Chambers, an accountant, and Betty (nee Buddle). He was the middle of three boys - John older, and James, who died suddenly in infancy, younger.  Sadly, their mother died of a ruptured aneurysm shortly after James death.  Their father, suddenly solely responsible for two young boys, decided to ease the burden by sending John and Rog to St Anne's School, Takapuna Beach on Auckland's North Shore.  In making this arrangement Jack met Isobel Galwey, who was matron at the school, and they married a year later and subsequently had a daughter, Susan.  Through Jack’s work the family moved to Hamilton and the boys boarded at Huntly School in Marton.  Rog next attended Kings College in Auckland, where he was a top scholar winning numerous prizes and culminating in being Dux Proxime in his final year.  A School House Prefect he developed a love for the theatre, which he retained throughout his life.

Rog commenced at Otago Medical School in 1954 residing at Selwyn College for the first 2 years. His love of Gilbert and Sullivan, from his time at Kings College, and a desire for the footlights resulted in his inclusion in the Swan Lake ballet during Otago University capping week. During his fourth year Rog took a year out of his medical training to complete a BMed Sci in physiology and he gained his MBChB in1960.   Completing his sixth year in Auckland, Rog remained there for his house surgeon experience and then spent two years as a rotating surgical registrar.  In Auckland Rog met Estelle Roughton, a newly graduated nurse, at Greenlane Hospital and they married in 1961.  Their first child, James, was born two years later.

Following the successful attainment of FRACS in 1965, Rog, Estelle and young James departed for the UK by ship.  Rog gained his FRCSEng in 1966 while working in London at the Whittington Hospital, having changed from general surgery to urology under mentor Prof. Neville Stidolph.  Stidolph was at that time the Penrose May tutor at the Royal College of Surgeons.  Under his guidance Rog developed an interest in reconstructive surgery of the urethra and pelvic trauma. During this time Rog and Estelle welcomed the arrival of their second child, Nikki, an unplanned home birth during a London snowstorm - Rog acting as the obstetrician.

In 1968 Rog accepted a consultant surgical post in Kampala, and the family moved to Uganda. Experiencing the country’s outdoors and wild-life, this was a period of great adventure – sometimes excessively so, as on one occasion a baby elephant wandered through the tent they slept in.  During his tenure at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Rog further developed his interest and expertise in the management of urethral strictures and urethral reconstruction.  However, it was his generalist surgical skills that were put to the ultimate test, such that his life depended on it.  In 1969 Milton Obote, then President of Uganda, had been injured following an assassination attempt. Rog was tasked with ensuring he survived, “supported” by a squad of armed guards lining the walls of the operating room.  

Thankfully, Obote did survive his surgery and Rog left the operating theatre instructing the guards to watch the ventilator, stating “He is still alive if the bag goes in and out”.  As political tensions escalated over the next 2 years, Uganda became an increasingly dangerous place to live and work and Rog made the decision to return with his family to New Zealand in 1971.  The timing was fortuitous, as not long after their departure, Obote was overthrown by the army and Idi Amin took power.

Following his return to New Zealand Rog obtained a position as a consultant urologist at Auckland City and National Women’s Hospitals.  In 1972 daughter Steff was born and the family was complete.   Rog was known to be a natural teacher, mentor, and the demonstrator of the art of good clinical judgement.  With these attributes he was greatly respected by all residents.   A master of endoscopic surgery, Rog was able to make the difficult appear easy. He acquired an international reputation for his expertise in managing major pelvic urethral trauma, with urethral reconstruction, and the evolution of the buccal graft urethroplasty.  He also initiated the early surgeries of gender reassignment in NZ.

Towards the end of his career, Rog committed as a business partner and colleague to the establishment of Urology 161, a private urology consulting and day-stay theatre complex centred on a beautiful old villa with a mature garden.  Rog contributed significantly to urological surgery in the Pacific, performing surgery in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.  This work in unfamiliar settings, with limited technology was not for the faint- hearted.  Rog, however coped and succeeded, but often commented in retrospect ‘how?’. 

Rog was a very personable man with a wonderful sense of humour and mischief.  While he willingly gave everyone the benefit of his time and expertise, he was very much a devoted family man who enjoyed gardening and voyages with family members in the yacht, Tacet.  His family commitment was exemplified in 1992 by his donation of his left kidney to his son, James, who was in renal failure.  He then cared for his wife Estelle who died in 1995 of bowel cancer.  Three years later he re-married – to Judith McEwen and regained a new passion for life.  Sadly, he had to support and care for Judith, who died of leukaemia in 2018.  Sustaining a myocardial infarction at her funeral, Rog literally died of a broken heart just nine months later.

Roger McKenzie Chambers a good man, husband, father, stepfather, brother, mate, colleague and mentor to so many is greatly missed by James, Nikki, Steff, and Joanne, his ten grandchildren, brother, John, and sister, Susan.  “He has left a large footprint, which will be very hard to fill.”   “Rest in peace Rog, your job is done.”


This obituary was prepared with the assistance of Mr Jon Cadwallader FRACS, Nikki Chambers and Sue Maasland