Sandy Jenkins will be remembered as one of the finest surgeons of his generation. He was in the avant-garde that led vascular surgery to become a surgical specialty in its own right.
Together with his colleagues, Bernard Nolan and Vaughan Ruckley, in the mid-1980s he helped the Edinburgh Vascular Surgery Unit became one of the first to break away from the umbrella of general surgery.
This was largely driven by the superb outcomes in the surgical management of patients with ruptured aortic aneurysm by the Edinburgh vascular surgeons, and Sandy Jenkins in particular. Their publication on the subject in 1986 is still widely quoted to this day.
Sandy was born in London in 1937 and the family home was in Sunningdale, Berkshire, on the edge of extensive pinewoods and heathland, awakening Sandy’s love of nature, an attribute which endured for his entire life.
With the outbreak of war, in late 1939 it was decided that Sandy and his brother, Jock, would be safer in Scotland so they traveled north to live, for a period, on the island of Mull. In 1940 the family moved to Moffat, a place which Sandy adored throughout his life and where his passion for fishing began, aged five, when he first spied salmon from a bridge over the Moffat Water. In 1945, the family was reunited in Sunningdale.
Sandy was educated at Canford School, Dorset, in the early 1950s, although latterly attending “crammer” to gain the A level results necessary to allow him entry to the University of Edinburgh Medical School in 1956, by which time his family had settled on a small farm near West Linton.
By all accounts he was a hardworking student but also enjoyed the social life. One apocryphal tale involved the consumption of a pint of beer whilst standing on his head in Deacon Brodies Tavern in Edinburgh.
In his first year, amongst other basic sciences, the medical curriculum included botany. He clearly studied this subject assiduously as, many years later, he would still test visitors to his home on the Latin names of plants and shrubs.
After graduation in 1962 he commenced postgraduate training as a surgeon. He had numerous appointments to various hospitals in Edinburgh as he climbed through the ranks. Even at this stage his remarkable surgical skill was apparent to both his seniors and his peers.
It was during this time that Sandy met his future wife, Pat, who worked as a theater staff nurse at Leith Hospital. Apparently, true love blossomed over an operation for hemorrhoids.
In the late 1960s Sandy spent three years working in surgical research on a project involving transplant organ rejection in rats.
I have gained the higher degree of Master of Surgery (ChM) to great accolade. It was at this time that, tragically, several close friends and colleagues succumbed to hepatitis.
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Between 1972 and ’76 he was an honorary Consultant in general surgery and kidney transplantation, finally being appointed to the Vascular Unit at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in 1976. It was from this stage onwards that he forged a career as one of the finest vascular surgeons of his day.
His clinical and surgical skills were always of the highest standard.
Moreover, Sandy’s quiet and friendly approach towards everyone with whom he worked made him immensely popular with all the staff in the department. He always had a pleasant word for anyone he passed in the corridor.
It was in the operating theater, however, that Sandy drew most attention; always calm and unflappable, even in the most extreme surgical situations, he came to have a significant influence on several generations of surgical trainees, many of whom, inspired by his skill and compassion, went on to enjoy a career in vascular surgery.
Sandy retired from the NHS in 2002 and, finally, from clinical practice in 2007.
There was far more to Sandy Jenkins than vascular surgery; as a dedicated salmon fisherman, he traveled the world, including Canada, Alaska, Russia and Norway, in pursuit of the king of fish and his love of remote and wild landscapes.
He was an excellent shot as well, taking great pleasure, particularly, in the social aspects of shooting days, in his beloved Border countryside. Later in life he became proficient in the Russian language, which he enjoyed using on his numerous fishing excursions to the Kola Peninsula and, after retirement, wrote an autobiographical account of his lifetime of fishing experiences at home and abroad, Cast of a Lifetime, and a historical novel, The Ring and the Swastika, set in Norway and Russia during the Second World War.
Sandy did not enjoy the best of health in his final years, but he never complained about the hand he had been dealt with and continued to appreciate the beauty and peace of the riparian woodlands at his home until he passed, thanks to close friends and family around him.
He was devoted to his wife Pat, their children and to his grandchildren. He leaves behind an impressive surgical legacy, a host of friends and admirers, his much loved small farm near to West Linton and a loving family.
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