Dr Chris Rowland MBE

Chris cared deeply about his patients as individuals and strove to tailor their cancer treatments to meet those individual needs. After co-founding FORCE in 1987, through the charity, he implemented the HOPE (Home Oncology Programme, Exeter) ambulatory chemotherapy treatment at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, the first in the UK to pioneer such an approach. This enabled patients to receive treatment at home rather than in hospital while continuing with normal activities of daily living, giving them a greater sense of control over their own lives. At the same time, he investigated the scientific basis for this method of treatment, conducting research into which chemotherapy drugs could be given in this way and how the body dealt with them, to establish the best treatment for that patient. Home infusional chemotherapy has since been developed further and is now readily available across the UK and the world. Chris continued to strive to introduce innovative treatments to improve care for his patients, never afraid to challenge convention, careful to gather evidence through systematic, meticulous research to support novel interventions, creating a research ethos, working closely with colleagues. Also in 1987, with support through FORCE, he brought individualised radiotherapy in the form of high dose-rate Selectron treatment to Exeter. He and his team undertook pivotal work with this treatment machine, making Exeter the first centre in the world to develop its use in a wide range of cancers. As a result of this work, such radiotherapy treatment equipment is now standard nationally and internationally. Both of these examples illustrate the principles Chris followed in his many years as Consultant Oncologist and FORCE’s champion, which became and remain the mission statement of FORCE – to support the lives of cancer patients and their carers, help maintain self-respect, dignity and be part of their plan of care. He always sought to improve existing care, had the ability to think about doing things differently, the courage to bring change, a commitment to encourage research and innovation – the patient being at the centre of his endeavours. He was much loved by his patients and their families, respected by colleagues, co-workers, students and researchers whose careers developed through work supported by FORCE and he attracted a deeply-felt, abiding loyalty. FORCE, Chris’s inspiration, has grown beyond imagination. In a way that could not have been envisaged at its outset, so many lives have been helped, lifted and touched, beyond words, beyond measure. Chris was humorous, irreverent, perceptive, incisive, caring, committed, courageous, vulnerable, loyal – the list is endless. He made a difference to so many, left his indelible mark here in Exeter and in many lives. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Indeed, his legacy lives on through the work of FORCE and Exeter Oncology Centre.

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