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World of cardiac surgery mourns death of heart surgeon James Munro

Thursday, September 5, 2013

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Melanie Adams

HE was one of the greatest heart surgeons of his generation.

That is how James Monro will be remembered by friends, colleagues and the many thousands of Southampton patients whose lives he saved during his long and prestigious career.

The 73-year-old retired cardiac surgeon has sadly passed away but his legacy is long-lasting having influenced the treatment of heart disease for adults and children throughout the world.

From being at the forefront of medical advances, pioneering many techniques in congenital heart surgery, to playing an instrumental role in transforming Southampton’s cardiac unit into the world-leading facility it is today – Mr Monro always had a passion for his patients and a drive for excellence.

Recruited in Southampton in 1973 by his late colleague Sir Keith Ross, Jim, as he was known to his friends, was a member of a team consisting of one cardiac surgeon and two cardiologists. Over the next 30 years he oversaw the unit’s move from the former Western Hospital to Southampton General in 1983, operating on more than 10,000 adults and 2,000 children. He played a pivotal role in seeing the city’s cardiac unit become a world-leading centre, which went from performing 400 operations a year in 1975 to nearly 2,000 now.

Respected both on the national and international cardiac stage, he pioneered corrective cardiac surgery on small babies and was a role model and mentor to many of today’s top surgeons.

His expertise saw him become the President of the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in the UK and also President of the European Association for Cardiothoracic Surgery.

Paying tribute to the dad-of-three, who died at the end of last week after a long battle with cancer, colleague and friend consultant cardiologist Iain Simpson, who is President of the British Cardiovascular Society, said: “Jim was one of the greatest heart surgeons of his generation, passionate about the pursuit of excellence and the care of his patients.

Gentleman “He influenced the treatment of heart disease for adults and children throughout the world as a clinical leader, influential teacher and dedicated surgeon of extraordinary talent.

“Jim was a true gentleman, a wonderful colleague as well as one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. His loss will be met by great sadness by all his friends and colleagues across the globe and the thoughts of the whole cardiovascular community are with Jane and his family at this sad time.”

Dr Tony Salmon, consultant congenital cardiologist, who worked with Mr Monro for 14 years in Southampton, added: “When he came to Southampton having worked in New Zealand’s Greenlane Hospital he took cardiac surgery to another level. He was a gentleman who was totally committed to his patients and their families and he was well respected both nationally and internationally.”

Charity was also a great passion for Mr Monro and he played a vital role in the establishment of Wessex Heartbeat in 1992 with colleague Rob Lamb, for which he was a trustee until last year, having also been chairman.

His expertise and dedication to providing the best patient care saw him play an integral part in the charity securing grants, including one that was crucial to the £1.2m refurbishment of the world-renowned children’s heart unit, Ocean Ward.

Even after his retirement in 2004, aged 65, his links with the city’s cardiac work remained strong, with him joining the fight to save children’s heart surgery in Southampton when it faced the axe.

Alison Farrell, chief executive of Wessex Heartbeat, said: “We had at our helm a man who had been at the forefront of medical advances in the field of cardiac surgery and by all accounts was a brilliant surgeon. His legacy is long-lasting.

“We had all hoped his retirement could have been so much longer and we offer our very sincere condolences to Jane and his family.”

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