OBE awarded to pioneering BSSH surgeon who has transformed the lives of countless children through her many years of dedicated work in hand and upper limb surgery.
Ruth Lester originally trained as a plastic surgeon,and her first appointment as a consultant was as aBurns Surgeon at the Birmingham Accident Hospital, where she discovered a need for hand surgery.Around 1990, Ruth was contacted by the RoyalOrthopaedic Hospital, requesting that she join themto help with children’s hand conditions. She thenwent on to negotiate a transfer to The BirminghamChildren’s Hospital (BCH) as she found that shewanted to operate on these children at a younger ageand therefore needed the facilities of a children’shospital.
During her time at BCH, Ruth began to encountermore complex cases, where the children would benefit from input from other specialist colleagues.These conditions ranged from forearm deformitiesand arthrogryposis to complex obstetric issues to thenerves in the neck of a baby. Ruth found it crucial toinvolve other specialities in the more difficult casesshe worked on in order to provide the best care, describing their support as “invaluable.” Despite thecomplex nature of her work, she describes workingwith children as the “icing on the cake – the best!”
After retiring in 2015, Ruth continued to mentor andteach at the BCH. This continued involvementresulted in the setup of multidisciplinary clinicsworking with other specialists. In fact, the Birmingham Children’s Hand and Upper Limb Servicebecame recognised by the trust, across the countryand even internationally. A further part of Ruth’slegacy comes in the form of her charitable fundCHARMS (Children’s Hand and Arm Surgery)which is administered by BCH charities, along withher hand camps which both provide further supportfor the children and training staff. She commentsthat “the majority of these children are just brilliant,but some do value psychological support. The therapists provide a lot of this support before, during andafter surgery and of course when surgery is not anoption”.
“As surgeons, we may offer an adjustment to theanatomy – but the important thing is supporting thewhole child and encouraging them to do everything.”