Tributes paid to former Sunderland surgeon

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TRIBUTES have been paid to a surgeon who dedicated more than two decades to caring for patients on Wearside.

Ralph Kerr Gilbert, who died last month at the age of 93, played a key role in developing the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery department at the former Sunderland General Hospital, helping cancer sufferers and accident casualties among others.

Since her father’s death, daughter Kathryn Hill said the family had received “endless messages” from grateful patients whom he helped overcome illness, defects and injuries of the head, face, neck, mouth and jaw.

“He was known by all the staff in the hospital, whether it be the cleaners, porters, matrons or colleagues, as a true gentleman, always kind considerate and courteous, always putting his patients first,” she said.

“He enjoyed squash, motor racing, holidays in France, but above all he was devoted to his family, and being with them and ensuring their happiness meant more to him than anything.”

Born in Grantown-on-Spey, in the Scottish Highlands, Mr Kerr Gilbert also spent part of his early life in Canada before moving to Edinburgh to begin his dentistry studies.

Qualifying in 1942, he went into the RAF, where he spent four years’ service in Calcutta, India.

He gained his fellowship to The Royal College of Surgeons in 1951, meeting his future wife Betty, a pharmacist, while working as a consultant dental surgeon at Chepstow Hospital for Plastic Surgery and Burns, in Wales.

After the couple’s marriage, he began a second degree in medicine in Dublin, where their daughter Kathryn was born, and continued working in dentistry to fund his studies and support his family, qualifying in 1956.

Before he gained his first consultant post in Sunderland in 1962, he worked in hospitals in Cardiff, London and Manchester.

He retired from his position at Sunderland General, now Sunderland Royal, in 1985.

Betty, who lived with her husband in Ashbrooke, said: “He was the best husband anyone could wish for, unselfish to a fault.”

Mr Kerr Gilbert died at Sunderland Royal Hospital on January 29, after a short illness. He is survived by wife Betty, daughter Kathryn and two grandchildren.

His funeral was held at St John’s Methodist Church, Ashbrooke, earlier this month.

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