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Tributes flow for prolific surgeon

Last updated 14:06 17/07/2013

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Tributes have been flowing for the man described as the founder of modern orthopaedic medicine in New Zealand.

Oliver Ross Nicholson died at Auckland Hospital last Friday , aged 90.

Mr Nicholson's legacy saw him train hundreds of orthopaedic surgeons in around the world.

His innovations include setting up New Zealand's first scoliosis (curvature of the spine) unit at Middlemore Hospital in the 1960s. 

He was also associated with the introduction of hip replacement surgery in 1967 and was also instrumental in setting up the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit, formerly know as the Otara Spinal Unit. 

Middlemore orthopaedic surgeon Garnet Tregonning, who share a birthday with Mr Nicholson, spoke at his funeral today.

Their association goes back to 1965 when Mr Tregonning was just starting his career. 

''He was an inspiring lecturer but very intimidating so I kept a low profile to avoid being asked too many questions,'' says Mr Tregonning of their early encounters.

''He's an absolutely amazing guy and leaves a huge legacy. He was fair and encouraging, although quite demanding and he set very very high standards but he had those himself.''

Mr Nicholson's status on the world stage saw him invited as a guest speaker many times over and his international contacts allowed him to send young doctors like Mr Tregonning overseas to further their skills.

Auckland surgeon Dr Peter Robertson sums up his legacy succinctly. 

''Simply stated, I don't think anybody in the future will achieve or contribute as much as Ross Nicholson did and we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude.''

Mr Nicholson was instrumental in setting up the orthopaedic training programme used by the New Zealand Orthopaedic Association and continued teaching until 2012.

The association held a tribute lunch for him on his 90th birthday last October. 

Mr Nicholson was also an honorary medical officer for the Auckland and New Zealand Rugby Unions before the professional era and was the Auckland Racing Club surgeon for jockeys.

He married his late wife Pauline in 1950. He is survived by his daughter Caroline, her husband Mike Thorburn and grandsons Richard and Andrew. 

The funeral was held today at St Mary's in Holy Trinity in Parnell.

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