Home  Home | Contact us | How to find us | News | Accessibility
A member of Cambridge University Health Partners - www.cuhp.org.uk

News

« Back

2 May 2018

Farewell to pioneering surgeon as Mr John Dunning takes on new challenge

Royal Papworth Hospital said goodbye to Mr John Dunning this week – at one of the Theatres team’s traditional 'bring and share' lunch celebrations.

Theatres Manager Julie Bracken paid tribute to the consultant surgeon – who arrived in 1990 – and recalled memories of his time at the hospital. He was also presented with a specially-made ‘heart’ cake.

He said: “Thank you for being such great friends and colleagues. You’ve all been very relaxed and you’ve helped me to be relaxed over the past 28 years.”

Mr Dunning was inspired to become a surgeon on his first day of clinical placement after medical school at St Andrew’s. “I was in the surgical unit at Manchester Royal Infirmary and we were with a young, charismatic, enthusiastic surgeon. I thought ‘I’d quite like to be like you’.”

But it wasn’t until he arrived at Papworth that his career path was crystallised. “Suddenly everything clicked. There was a great environment here to start writing, there was a team of people involved in transplantation, and there was lots of data to access, to put out there.”

At that time there were just three full-time surgeons at the hospital: John Wallwork, Frank Wells and Stephen Large. “Terence English had just been made President of the Royal College of Surgeons, so he was only really here on Mondays and Fridays most weeks. It was a small, cohesive team,” said Mr Dunning. “There was still a great pioneering spirit.”

He became a consultant surgeon in 1994, establishing what would become the national Pulmonary Endarterectomy (PEA) programme in 1996.

“We started the programme up in a systematic way. We had the same staff in the theatre for every operation; we made it a focused activity. We thought we’d get up to around 25 procedures over the next couple of years, perhaps a top number of 50 a year - little thinking that it would get up to 170 a year, which is how many we do now. “I’m really proud of the programme – and the hard yards I did in the first six years of it.”

Now a new challenge awaits. In the summer, Mr Dunning will take up the post of Professor of Cardiac Surgery at the University of South Florida. “I thought the job looked interesting. They have a big transplant programme, over a hundred transplants a year with a small number of surgeons. What I also hope is that I can carry on working with my colleagues at Papworth on research opportunities. It may give Papworth another site in the US where trainees can look to go for fellowships.

“My one regret is that I won’t be in the new hospital. What we’ve managed to do at the current site - which is struggling in material terms - is amazing, it goes to show that the hospital isn’t the building, it’s about the people who work in it that allow you to do great work. And if you can do great work here, the expectation is that in a purpose-built facility you should be able to do even better.”