U.K. radiology mourns MSK specialist Charles Wakeley

By Dr. Adrian Thomas, AuntMinnieEurope.com columnist

November 19, 2021 -- A death diminishes all of us, particularly that of a fellow member of the radiological community. As the 16th century English poet John Donne wrote, no one of us is an island and we are all a piece of the whole. His most famous lines are quoted many times, yet they remain true: "and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."

Dr. Charles Wakeley (1959-2021) was an excellent musculoskeletal (MSK) radiologist, although by rights he should have been a surgeon, being the third generation of surgeons. He worked at the University Hospitals Bristol National Health Service (NHS) Trust for 27 years, 20 of them as a consultant or senior radiologist.

Charles John Wakeley
Dr. Charles John Wakeley from Bristol, U.K. Photo courtesy of Rachel Wakeley.

Charles was born in London, the son of Sir John and Lady June Wakeley. His father was a consultant general surgeon in Cheshire, and his grandfather, Sir Cecil Wakeley, was a surgeon on the staff at King's College, serving as president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and having been made a baronet in 1952.

Charles was educated at Uppingham School in Rutland, which was founded in 1584. He was a medical student at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School in London, qualifying in 1983. He worked as a house surgeon at the London Hospital and then as a house physician in Chester. He held senior house officer posts in orthopedics and surgery.

Having a lifelong interest in anatomy, Charles also served as an anatomy demonstrator at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School. He obtained the surgical qualification, the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS), from both the London and Edinburgh colleges, passing at a young age on his first attempt.

Charles then decided to move into radiology, since he saw it as the future. The 1980s were a very exciting time with development in all areas of radiology, and given his love of anatomy, he would have been attracted to MRI. He trained at Bristol and obtained the fellowship examination of the Royal College of Radiologists. He then undertook a fellowship in MRI again at Bristol.

He was appointed a consultant radiologist with a special interest in MSK and oncological imaging at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. He developed his interests using ultrasound, CT, and MRI, and was also fascinated by trauma and sports injuries.

Teaching role

Charles was a popular lecturer, and he published widely in his early career. He was president of the British Society of Skeletal Radiologists and a senior examiner for the Royal College of Radiologists. He was also associate editor of the journal Clinical Radiology.

Perhaps his most lasting legacy can be found in his students. He was an excellent teacher, loving to share his knowledge and always having plenty of time for those whom he trained. His enthusiasm was infectious.

He retired as an NHS consultant and was in the process of returning to a teaching role when he developed his final illness. He had a strong desire to give back some of what he had himself received from his own teachers when he was a junior.

Charles was a friendly and helpful colleague who was always polite. He was much in demand because of the depth of his anatomical knowledge. He specialized in bone and joint pathologies, working closely with his rheumatological and orthopedic colleagues.

His family motto is Nihil sine labore (nothing without work), and Charles reflected this in his life. He always went to bed early so as to be able to rise early -- partly to avoid the Bristol traffic but also to be at his desk early.

Dr. Adrian Thomas.
Dr. Adrian Thomas. Image courtesy of the BIR.

I am reminded of the words of the Canadian writer Stephen Leacock, who said that he was a great believer in luck and found that the harder he worked, the more he had of it!

Outside of radiology, Charles loved wood carving, fishing, and water skiing. In his wood carving, he fashioned decoy ducks and also figures of shore birds.

Charles developed glioblastoma multiforme, and in spite of treatment, he died on 23 May 2021. He is survived by wife Rachel and sons Rupert and Arthur. Charles will be missed by many.

Dr. Adrian Thomas is chairman of the International Society for the History of Radiology and honorary historian at the British Institute of Radiology.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AuntMinnieEurope.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular vendor, analyst, industry consultant, or consulting group.


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