Obituary of Denis Lambert Sugrue

Denis Lambert Sugrue

Dr D Sugrue photo

Denis Sugrue was born in Dublin on 10th March 1927. He had a happy childhood in Dublin with his parents, older sister and half-brother. He had a tremendous affection and pride for his father who was a decorated soldier of the First World War.

He was educated at the Catholic University School and Blackrock College. He commenced his medical studies in University College Dublin (UCD) in 1944. The following year he was awarded a Kitchener Scholarship. He qualified MB, BAO, Bch in 1950. He came to England to pursue postgraduate training in ENT. He obtained the DLORCS Eng. in 1953 and the MCH, National University of Ireland in 1954.

Having completed his postgraduate training studies, Denis decided to explore the field of plastic surgery and applied for the post of registrar at Rooksdown House. Three happy and instructive years were spent there, before Denis returned to Ireland. (His famous interview by Sir Harold Giles was recounted in the BMJ volume 314, 11th January 1997). He was appointed consultant plastic surgeon to the Children Hospital, Temple Street, Dublin and to the International Missionary Training Hospital, Drogheda where he pioneered plastic surgery and his work was recognised and published internationally.

At university Denis joined the Boat Club at UCD and he was most fortunate in being a participant in a successful era of UCD rowing, which culminated in 1948 with his selection to cox the Irish Olympic Eight in the London Olympic Games. In 2012 Denis was awarded the medal of honour from the Olympic Council of Ireland.

In 1968 Denis accepted the post of consultant plastic surgeon at the General Hospital in Tripoli, Kingdom of Libya, spending many months with the hospital architects and administrators planning a department of plastic surgery and a burns unit. Denis was invited to join the International Society of Burns Injuries. The work was challenging. He endeavoured to build a team of experts who could provide the appropriate reconstructive surgery. Unfortunately as a result of a radical change of regime, courtesy of Colonel Gaddafi, Denis found himself unceremoniously returned to England.

By now Denis had a wife and a young daughter, so it was urgent that he found employment and a consultant post as quickly as possible. To this end, he was advised to consider a change of speciality by a former mentor from Rooksdown House and thus an opportunity arose for an appointment at St Thomas’ Hospital in what was then classified as venereology. Subsequently, Denis was registrar and then senior registrar at Southampton for training in his new career. He was appointed as consultant venereologist to the North and Mid Staffordshire Hospitals in 1972.

The major task on his appointment was to upgrade the premises as a temporary measure, while pursuing a purpose built department within the main hospital complex, which was essential for recognition for higher training and recruitment. Nationally, there was a movement to change the image of the speciality of venereology which became genitourinary medicine. Denis was active in promoting this new vision and was a founder member as well as first president of the Midlands Society of Genitourinary Medicine.

Denis remained in his post in North Staffordshire Hospital until his retirement in 1992. He was dedicated to the care of his patients and only the best medical practice would suffice. He took delight in developing his staff and teaching his junior colleagues. He gave unflinching support, advice and friendship to his consultant colleagues; friendships that in many instances lasted his lifetime. He was considered by some as their godfather.

He found retirement very enjoyable and travelled frequently. His last trip was to Hong Kong to attend the wedding of his younger daughter in February 2012.

Denis was introduced to his wife Helen at the Hunter Trial held at Castletown House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare in March 1962 and they married in September that year.

Denis died peacefully on 23rd July 2014. He leaves his devoted wife Helen, two daughters, a granddaughter and a grandson.


Dr Taha Wanas FRCOG

Retired consultant in genitourinary medicine

The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust

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