22 Feb 2024, 2:19 p.m.

Professor Michael W L Gear, the foremost and most eminent Consultant Surgeon of his generation in Gloucestershire, died peacefully at home on Monday 29 January 2024

Mike was 90 and had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. He bore his illness in his typical stoical, easy-going and positive manner.

He calculated that he performed about 10,000 operations as a Consultant. Although he was initially appointed as a General Surgeon to Gloucester Health Authority in 1970, over the years he became more specialised in gastroenterological services. Mike was a pioneer of endoscopy in Gloucestershire and was also in the vanguard of the development of laparoscopic (‘key-hole’) surgery in the UK and performed the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy in the county in 1991.

Born in Shanghai in 1933, Mike initially studied Medicine in Cape Town. When his father became the Assistant Director General at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva , Mike then moved to Oxford to continue his medical training. He trained in Surgery in Birmingham, Kings College (London) and Oxford. At Oxford, Mike researched gastric diseases, resulting in the award of his DM and MCh degrees and numerous influential publications.

Whilst in Gloucester, alongside his clinical work, Mike continued his pioneering research interests in gastroenterology and endoscopy. This also resulted in many important publications. For example, the research demonstrated how ‘surgery without incision’ resulted in better outcomes for patients by improving comfort and reducing their stay in hospital for surgery to day cases only. This also increased the amount of surgery that could be done in the hospital.

Mike Gear on Loch Sunart, Scotland

Friends and colleagues will remember Mike as the most affable and yet dynamic of colleagues. His skills were not only in the development of surgery but he was inventive, always looking for a better way to do things, and also had considerable academic and administrative prowess. Mike was one of the leaders who set up the collaboration with Cranfield University, which bestowed a Professorship upon him in 1996. Although he formally retired from surgical practice the year before, he continued to support that important research institution for some years after. Mike also was involved in many national institutions and Societies. In 1993-5 he was Vice-President of the British Society of Gastroenterology, chairing the Endoscopy Committee, and was elected President of the South West Surgeons Club. He was a Tutor at the Royal College of Surgeons of England and an Appointed Examiner to Oxford University Medical School.

Mike had an extraordinary talent to reach out to others working in medicine across disciplines.

Surgeons, anaesthetists, physicians, radiologists, pathologists, General Practitioners, nursing staff and theatre technicians will all remember him as an extraordinarily energetic and yet genial character. Mike hugely valued learning from others of all ages and nationalities. He was instrumental in setting up joint training programmes for the Gloucester team with hospitals in other countries, such as Australia and USA.

Outside work, Mike was a keen and very talented sailor, including sailing for Oxford University. Latterly, he was often found on the West coast of Scotland, where he had a second home, either navigating the sea lochs or climbing Munros, 3,000 foot Scottish mountains. He was a loving family man. His first wife, Sally, predeceased him in 2001, after 30 years of living with chronic kidney disease caused by a rare genetic disease, Alport syndrome, that impacted hearing, eyes and kidneys. Mike’s second wife, Penny, also predeceased him a year ago. Whilst caring for Sal with years on dialysis and coping with two kidney transplants, Mike was also an inspiring and very loving father to his two daughters, Susie and Nicky, and three grandsons.

Memorial arrangements

The family funeral was held on Tuesday 20 February. However, a Thanksgiving Service will be held at St Mary’s Church, Painswick at 14.00pm on Friday May 10, 2024. All colleagues and friends are warmly invited to attend this service and have tea afterwards with Sal’s legendary chocolate cake that kept Mike functioning at his great pace! The family kindly request ‘no flowers please’ but, if appropriate, please donate in Mike’s memory to Alport UK:

  • either by cheque written to ‘Alport UK’ and sent to PO Box 329, Cirencester, GL7 9JA or use a credit card on the JustGiving page set up in Mike’s memory: https://www.justgiving.com/page/inmemoryof-mikegear
  • Mike participated in the first international workshop Alport UK organised at the University of Oxford in 2014. Mike’s children and grandchildren volunteer for Alport UK which, over the last 10 years, set up a global network developing treatments and knowledge for all those living with Alport Syndrome.

Authors: Nicky and Susie Gear and Professor Neil Shepherd