GEORGE NEWS - Professor Robert William Mayo Frater (90), inter alia a trustee of the George Hospital trust, was the first to receive a new award inaugurated by the famous Cape school, Bishops.
The Bishop Gray Medal, named after one of the founders of Bishops 170 years ago, goes to an old boy of the school for outstanding achievement in the interests of the community. Frater received this magnificent honour in the Bishops chapel that is the central focus of the senior school, on Friday 1 March.
In an exceptional school career starting at the Bishops Preparatory School in 1937, Frater was the head prefect of Ogilvie House, captain of tennis and a member of the First Rugby XV. He matriculated in the first class in 1946, winning the West Jones Scholarship to study medicine at the University of Cape Town, where he qualified with a first class in surgery.
In 1955 he was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons in the United Kingdom. He subsequently took up a fellowship in surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester where he specialised in the then new field of cardiothoracic surgery. He continued his research, specialising in the repair of diseased mitral valves using autologous pericardial patches, and was the first surgeon to successfully install a prosthesis for a defective aortic valve into a human being using a pig's valve.
In 1964 he took charge of the new open heart operations department at the prestigious Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, and built it from scratch to a point where the graduates from its clinical training programmes and research fellowships became chiefs of surgery at their respective hospitals around the world.
Over a 50-year period, Frater pioneered various life saving techniques for which he was declared the outstanding alumnus of the Mayo Clinic, the highest honour attainable in the medical profession in the US.
Frater and his artistic wife, Elaine, a graduate of Rhodes University, have always loved South Africa where they keep a holiday home in the Southern Cape. After retirement he formed the company Glycar based in Irene, which produces bovine heart patches used to repair diseased heart valves in humans that supply the world.
He has also formed an association with the University of the Free State, where he is involved in a wide variety of projects. Now, at the age of 90, he was recognised with an honorary PhD by his old school, with the Bishop Gray Medal for his outstanding career as a surgeon. His parents were also doctors at Mayo, where they met, hence his third name "Mayo".
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