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Michael Handley Ashken


1931 - 2016

Summarised from Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online

Michael Handley Ashken was born in the East End of London in 1931. He went to Bedales School where he excelled at all sports, especially cricket, which he played and enjoyed watching for most of his life. He started his medical training at The Middlesex Hospital at the age of 17, just at the time the NHS was founded. He gained prizes and honours at all stages of his student life and qualified in November 1955.

After completing his basic surgical training in Guildford, Manchester and the Middlesex Hospital, he passed the Final FRCS examination in 1959, following which he was called up for military service in Malaya, where he gained a large amount of clinical experience.

At the end of his National Service, he chose to return to the Middlesex Hospital with Sir Eric Riches and Richard Turner-Warwick, where he was encouraged to take the customary two years out of clinical surgery to carry out research for his MS Thesis.  He was appointed Senior Registrar at The Middlesex Hospital in 1964, and Consultant Urologist at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital in 1968. He was appointed to a Hunterian professorship in 1966.

With his arrival as a pure urologist, Michael and his colleague Alan Green set up a department in Norwich which was very popular with urological trainees.  He also collaborated with Herbert Brendler, Nils Koch, Ernst Zingg, Urs Studer and others, resulting in much international travel, both working and examining. The collaboration resulted in production of the definitive tome "Urinary Diversion" (Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, Springer-Verlag, 1982).

He was President of the Section of Urology at the RSM from 1990 to 1991, and was the first President to take the section to North America for a winter meeting. He was President of BAUS from 1994 to 1996, the first incumbent not to be based in a teaching hospital (although Norfolk & Norwich Hospital is now). 

He married Iris Platt in May 1956, when they were both pre-registration House Officers, and they had three children, Sharon, Peter & Ian. Michael died on 22 September 2016 at the age of 85, four months after celebrating his diamond wedding anniversary, and is survived by his wife, children and six grandchildren.

In 2006, to celebrate his 75th birthday, his family set up a charitable trust which continues to sponsor visiting lecturers at the East Anglian Urologists' Regional Meeting each year in Cambridge.


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