OBITUARY: Adrian Tanner

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The Independent Online
Adrian Tanner had a very particular practice: he was a surgeon for patients with HIV, and, to his patients' benefit, enjoyed work that many surgeons had previously chosen to avoid. He was not appointed a consultant surgeon and never received the professional rewards that he deserved. Yet he was greatly appreciated by his medical colleagues and staff at St Mary's Hospital, London.

The Aids epidemic in London, from 1982 onwards, had involved St Mary's to a very great extent, and by 1990 nearly 20 per cent of the acute medical beds in the hospital were occupied by Aids patients. These patients required a wide range of complex medical input, and increasingly surgical opinions and intervention were being sought. Initially, surgery for Aids patients was addressed on an ad hoc basis, frequently involving the most junior surgeons. In order to address the need for a specialist to take responsibility for Aids surgery, Tanner was asked to take on the service. Where many surgeons saw considerable personal risk and "difficult" patients, Tanner saw clinical need and a fascinating new area of surgery to explore.

Tanner built up a large practice in HIV surgery, pioneering many techniques and drawing patients from all over London. He lectured and published widely on his unique experience and skills in HIV surgery. He felt very strongly that HIV surgery was most safely dealt with, for all concerned, in dedicated centres. He was a delightful, hardworking and highly competent colleague. It was no surprise that patients sought him widely,

Tanner's career began conventionally enough; he was the son of Norman Tanner, arenowned gastric surgeon, and followed him into surgery. Educated at University College School, he qualified in medicine from St Thomas' Hospital Medical School in 1973. He was an outstanding athlete, and was captain of boats at St Thomas'.

He was appointed to the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1979, and expected to undertake some research before finding a senior registrar post, and appointment as a consultant surgeon. Careers in medicine do not always go smoothly, and Tanner was unlucky to be training at a time of surplus in surgical trainees. No appropriate post was forthcoming, and he spent five years in a succession of locum posts. In 1990 he arrived at St Mary's at the start of another surgical locum, but there he was to find at last the direction and satisfaction that his career had hitherto lacked. He stayed at St Mary's until a brain tumour forced his retirement earlier this year.

Tanner's life was marked by humility, hard work and even harder exercise. When we went together in 1993 to a conference in Berlin, he passed me as I waited in the taxi queue at Templehof Airport, wheeling his bicycle. He was easily the first to arrive at our hotel. He was a little abashed, as normally he would have chosen to run in from the airport; but he had a large poster to carry, and so had resorted to his bike.

He ran every day, and it was an accident whilst running which first drew attention to his tumour. He was very excited by the advent of the London Marathon. He had run in every one since its inception; and ran the 1990 marathon with the family dog. He was devoted to his family, and particularly to his wife, Jane, herself a doctor, and to his children. He was also a devout Christian, something he inherited from his father, and which sustained him through his work and his illness.

Jonathan Weber

Adrian Tanner, surgeon: born London 24 July 1948; MBBS 1973; FRCS 1979; Associate Specialist in Surgery, St Mary's Hospital, London 1992-95; married 1984 Jane Woyka (two sons); died Harrow 26 March 1995.