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History of The Gauvain

Sir Henry Gauvain

Sir Henry Gauvain

Sir Henry Gauvain pioneered the conservative outdoor management of childhood bone and joint tuberculosis in the UK at the Lord Mayor Treloar Hospital and College in Hampshire. Having studied medicine at St. John’s College, Cambridge he completed his house  appointments at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. Recruited by Sir William Purdie Treloar Lord Mayor of London), Gauvain ultimately took up the post of Medical Superintendent in August 1908, aged 30 years at the newly founded Lord Mayor Treloar Hospital and “Cripples” College (as it was formerly known) in Alton, Hampshire.

Gauvain became a master of the application of plaster and also designed and developed light moulded splints of celluloid impregnated muslin. Using such techniques he was able to safely immobilise affected joints and learned to prevent or correct deformity. He regularly lectured to both the lay and medical community and his pioneering approach soon earned him an international reputation, ultimately receiving a Knighthood in recognition of his contribution to the treatment of bone and joint tuberculosis.

During Gauvain’s time at Alton, he was invited, by Lord Mayor Treloar, to a grand dinner held annually at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, which came to be known as The Gauvain Dining Club, firmly a social occasion. After 1968 however, dinners were held at Treloar’s College and soon after it was suggested that the dinner should be combined with a clinical meeting involving consultants, from the regional orthopaedic units, with their respective registrars and house surgeons. And so it was that one Friday in September 1976 the Gauvain Society was born, involving a morning teaching round followed by lunch at a local 17th century pub in Alton. Clinical cases were presented and discussed in the afternoon session, which was attended by orthopaedic surgical teams from hospitals in the region. The day concluded with a black-tie dinner, to which the consultants’ wives were invited, at the White Horse Hotel.

Although Sir Henry Gauvain sadly died in 1945 from complications of a hip fracture, his memory lives on and the Gauvain Society has now evolved into an all-day orthopaedic meeting and remains the highlight of the academic calendar in Wessex. We hope the continued survival of the Gauvain Society is a fitting tribute to honour Gauvain and also Treloar, both outstanding and inspirational men of their time.

With thanks to Mr Nick Evans, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust

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