Citation for Prof. R.J. Heald, CBE, MChir, FRCS(Ed)(Eng)

Professor Heald

Mr. President, it is my privilege to present Prof. R.J. (Bill) Heald of Basingstoke, Hampshire, England, for Honorary Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons (ACS). A graduate of Cambridge University, Mr. Heald is professor of surgery at the University of Southampton,  and consultant surgeon at the Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital National Health Services Foundation Trust. He is surgical director of the Pelican Cancer Foundation, which promotes excellence and educates health professionals in the management of patients with colon and rectal cancer.

Led by Professor Heald, the North Hampshire Hospital team pioneered total mesorectal excision (TME), a procedure for rectal cancer based on defined embryologic, anatomic, and pathogenetic principles, which is the gold standard in the surgical management of patients with this disease.

Reciting his lengthy curriculum vitae would require the speed of an auctioneer. You’ll have to accept my executive summary of his extensive contributions.

Professor Heald is a passionate educator who has dedicated himself to training surgeons in the U.K. and the international surgical community in the conduct of TME. The cornerstone of his success as a teacher is the use of live video broadcast TME operations featuring dialogue with the audience. He has performed more than 400 such procedures in more than 30 countries since defining the “Holy Plane” of rectal cancer surgery in 1988.

His long list of honors and awards attests to the esteemed international reputation he enjoys among his peers. He also has close to 150 peer-reviewed publications in surgical literature, principally in the field of colorectal surgery. In addition to his teaching and publishing, he has participated in countless workshops, named lectures, postgraduate courses, master classes, and video productions worldwide.

In the past few months, he has assumed his new position as president of the colorectal group at the Champalimaud Foundation for the Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal.

I was privileged to spend a sabbatical period in Basingstoke in 1992, during which I reviewed the documentation of his results and learned the technique of TME firsthand. It was the experience of a lifetime, and I was immediately convinced of Mr. Heald’s genius for precise dissection of the planes in the pelvis. This careful dissection results in significantly less pelvic recurrence of cancer with a high cure rate, a more functional reconstruction with pelvic nerve preservation, and a reduced need for colostomy in all but the lowest of tumors. My time in Basingstoke began a close personal friendship between his family and mine that continues to grow today. I so admire Bill for everything he has accomplished. He uses every waking hour to good purpose, both in his professional life and social interactions. His students, colleagues, and patients adore him—not to mention his wife, Bounce, and their three lovely daughters and families. I thank him for allowing me to participate in developing changes in rectal cancer management and for the numerous opportunities I have had as a result of my studies with him.

Bill Heald is the embodiment of the principle that dedication, hard work, and a thorough study of one’s subject will lead to improvements in patient care. I am therefore proud and tremendously pleased (he would say “chuffed”) to present my friend and colleague Prof. R.J. Heald, last year’s Commission on Cancer Oncology Lecturer, for a richly deserved encore—Honorary Fellowship in the ACS.

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