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Leo Doyle, Master Surgeon

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On 3 March l953 Leo Doyle died at the Mercy Hospital, Melbourne. The day before he died Leo Doyle had been operating at the Mercy Hospital when he took ill. Doyle’s final illness was almost certainly the result of the severe aortic stenosis that had been developing over some years. His death at the relatively young age of 61 ended the career of a man described by Sir Gordon Gordon Taylor as the greatest technical surgeon that he had ever seen. In all likelihood Australian surgery will never see the likes of Doyle, a virtuoso surgeon, again. And yet to many of the surgeons who were Doyle’s contemporaries and to those who followed him he remained somewhat of an enigma. Perhaps in some way the description of the great French surgeon Baron Dupuytren may also be applicable to Leo Doyle: known to all, loved by many, understood by few. By all accounts Leo Doyle’s surgical repertoire knew no bounds. He operated with equal facility on the central nervous system, the head and neck, in the thorax, abdomen and pelvis and he was more than competent in gynaecology, urology and orthopaedics. In the latter part of his career he became, par excellence, a cancer surgeon. He was, arguably, Australia’s first surgical oncologist. No procedure was deemed too complicated or demanding. Like some other superb technicians his judgement at times did not match his technical ability. Doyle was one of the first surgeons in Australia to perform hindquarter amputation and he helped to pioneer the operations of total gastrectomy and oesophagogastrectomy. An avid reader of the surgical literature, he possessed an enormous library which was matched by an equally large collection of surgical instruments. Unlike Devine he published relatively little. He was not a good clinical teacher, preferring to teach by example in the operating theatre. Although interested in music and the visual arts, surgery was his life.
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Keywords: enigmatic; inventor; pioneer surgical oncologist; virtuoso master surgeon

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Publication date: 01 October 2000

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