Dr Robert James Hamer Hodges

Personal Details

Dr Robert James Hamer Hodges LMSSA, FFARCS

Place of birth: Portsmouth, UK

Nationality: British

CRN: 722063

Education and qualifications

General education

Portsmouth Grammar School. St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, Paddington, 1938 to 1944. He won the Kitchener Scholarship.

Primary medical qualification(s)

LMSSA Lond. 1944 (Licensiate in Medicine and Surgery of The Society of Apothecaries.)

Initial Fellowship and type

FFARCS by Election.

Year of Fellowship


Other qualification(s)

DA 1952.

Professional life and career

Postgraduate career

House Surgeon, House Physician and Senior House Surgeon in Portsmouth 1944 to 1945. Then from 1945 to 1948 he was Resident Surgical Officer at The Miller General Hospital, and Senior RMO at The Royal Marsden Hospital. During this period he contracted pulmonary tuberculosis for which he was treated with thoracoplasty between 1946 and 1948. He probably realised that this prejudiced his chances of a surgical career, and he obtained some experience in anaesthetics with the help of Dr Cope, later Consultant at University College Hospital, London. In 1949 he returned to Queen Alexandra Hospital Portsmouth as Senior Surgical Officer. In 1950 he moved sideways into anaesthetics and after a year as registrar he became a Senior Hospital Medical Officer in Anaesthetics in Portsmouth in 1951. Also in 1 he also spent six months at John Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, USA, in obstetrical anesthesia, with Professor Robert Hingson. In 1952 he obtained the then two part Diploma in Anaesthetics and was elected FFARCS in 1954. Also in 1954 he was appointed Consultant Anaesthetist to the Portsmouth Group of Hospitals and Consultant Anaesthetist to The Thoracic Surgical Unit of The Wessex Region. This, at the time, involved sessions at Southampton, later moving to Portsmouth, and also sessions on The Isle of Wight. He was also Consultant Anaesthetist to the Poliomyelitis Centre at Priorsdean Hospital, Portsmouth and the Obstetric Unit at St Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth.

Professional interests and activities

He published many papers particularly on muscle relaxants. His landmark paper “general anaesthesia for operative obstetrics” appeared in the British Journal of Anaesthesia in 1959, and was revolutionary. In it he described the head up, thiopentone, succinylcholine, intubation, oxygen, nitrous oxide technique for Caesarean Section. In 1961 Sellick added cricoid pressure, and with minor modifications this technique survives today for GA for Caesarean Section. At the time facemask anaesthesia was the benchmark. He was also interested in neonatal resuscitation. At this time paediatricians did not come into theatre and it was the responsibility of the anaesthetist to resuscitate the newborn if necessary. Between 1950 and 1955 he gave most general anaesthetics for operative obstetrics in Portsmouth. He also encouraged anaesthetic trainees to participate in obstetrical anaesthesia research and ignited their interest in obstetrical anaesthesia. He also had an interest in paediatric anaesthesia and endeavoured to obtain the intelligent cooperation of children, and held a pre-anaesthesia class the day before surgery explaining what was going to happen to them.

Other biographical information

He was the son of a Portsmouth GP. He married a nurse in the early 1940’s while working at Hammersmith Hospital, and their first child David was born in 1944. They later had a daughter Mary. While at medical school he was a keen cross country runner, and took the rugby first fifteen out on runs with the hare and hounds club. Sadly he had health issues related to his pulmonary tuberculosis and he died suddenly on 8th November 1961 during the South Western Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society meeting in Portsmouth, aged 42, where he had opened the meeting with an erudite paper on obstetrical anaesthesia outlining the reduction of perinatal mortality rate in Portsmouth as a result of the expert anaesthesia mothers were receiving from his department.


Author and sources

Author: Robert Julian Palmer.

Sources and any other comments: Proceedings of History of Anaesthesia Society 6th February 1988 by Dr Colin Birt; appreciation by Mr Austin Concannon, proceedings of South Western Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society, 7th to 10th November 1961.

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