Ronald McRae (1926 -2012)
Ronald McRae, consultant orthopaedic surgeon and author of medical textbooks died recently aged 85. Many graduates at the Glasgow School of Chiropody (myself included) will have known him personally and had the privilage of attending his brilliant anatomy lectures. Others, I am sure have read or at least referred to his pocketbook, Clinical Orthopaedic Examination. Thoughts go to his wife and family.
Ronald McRae was an Ayrshire man, he grew up in Maybole where his father was a local policeman. He was a prize-winning pupil at the town's Carrick Academy and went on to study medicine at Glasgow University, graduating in 1949.
He served as a commissioned medical officer in the RAF, working mostly in Ely, Cambridgeshire, where he started specialising in orthopaedics. There he treated service personnel, many of them transferred from the Middle East for treatment, and local civilians.
When he left the Armed Forces he returned to Scotland, working in all the main hospitals in Glasgow and eventually being appointed consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the city's Southern General. The hospital was the first in Scotland to carry out hip replacement surgery – with Ronald McRae helping to lead the way.
He was also involved at the sharp end of the hospital's work, treating accident victims from the local shipyards and the construction of the Clyde Tunnel. His skills were put to the test in 1971 when he carried out surgery on some of those injured in the Ibrox Disaster.
It was while working at the Southern that he became a lecturer in anatomy at the Glasgow School of Chiropody. His groundbreaking teaching methods earned him an Honorary Fellowship of the Society of Chiropodists.
Later Mr McRae was charged with the responsibility of setting up an orthopaedic teaching programme for medical students. As part of this he prepared scores of handout notes for the undergraduates.
The notes, which also contained detailed hand-drawn illustrations, had to be copied, pinned together and distributed to each new set of students. In a bid to make the job easier, he approached medical publishers Churchill Livingstone with a view to them printing the notes in book form.
With their enthusiastic agreement, the notes were expanded, 600 illustrations were drawn and the resultant book was published. The pocketbook, Clinical Orthopaedic Examination, has remained in print ever since. It is now in its fifth edition and has been translated into French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Farsi.
Mr McRae, who was recognised as a leader in his field, went on to have similar success with a second handbook, Practical Fracture Treatment. Several more publications followed, including Practical Surgical Exposures, which took eight years to prepare.
Later he co-authored (with Andrew Kinninmonth) An Illustrated Colour Text of Orthopaedics and Trauma. Mr McRae's last published work was The Pocketbook of Orthopaedics and Fractures, generally recognised as required reading for any self-respecting young casualty doctor.
Mr McRae, who had been ill for some time, is survived by his wife Helen, a doctor he met while she was a radiologist at the Western Infirmary and he was a recently qualified doctor, their three children and four grandchildren.