Obituary - Dr Leslie Rendell-Baker

Dr Leslie Rendell-Baker

1917 to 2008

This obituary originally appeared in the Redland Daily Facts newspaper, published 16 August 2008.

Dr Leslie Rendell-Baker, a leading anesthesiologist in Great Britain and the United States, died August 11 at his home in Redlands, after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease. He was 91.

He was a practicing anesthesiologist and a professor of anesthesia during his 57-year career.

Rendell-Baker dedicated his medical career to increasing patient safety and reducing mortality in the operating room. He also trained four generations of medical students on anesthetic practices.

In the 1960s, Rendell-Baker teamed with dental surgeon Dr. Donald Soucek to invent a newborn and pediatric face mask system which reduced infant mortality by allowing accurate dosing of anesthesia, and enabled surgeons to perform longer and more complex abdominal and orthopedic procedures.

The Rendell-Baker /Soucek mask became the worldwide standard for delivering anesthetics to infants and children. Today, the design of the pediatric resuscitation mask used by emergency medical technicians is based on the Rendell-Baker /Soucek mask.

Rendell-Baker served as chairman of Committee Z-79, the forerunner of the American National Standards Committee on Anesthesia Equipment, tasked with improving the safety of anesthesia equipment by standardizing equipment, sterilization practices, drug labeling and the layout of controls on apparatus.

He also directed his energies towards improving the connections between anesthetic equipment which allowed for interchangeable systems and decreased leakage of volatile gases in the operating room.

Rendell-Baker was born March 27, 1917, in St. Helens, Lancashire, England. His grandfather, father and three uncles were electrical power engineers who believed medicine offered a better career.

After graduating from Ashville College in Harrogate, England, in 1935, Rendell-Baker followed his relatives advice and pursued medicine instead of engineering. He entered Guy's Hospital Medical School in London where he obtained his medical doctorate in 1941.

In 1942, he was called up for the Royal Army Medical Corps. He received field dressing station training in Scotland. As a captain he led the medical team of a Forward Surgical Unit, one of the earliest uses of what are now known as MASH units.

While in Prestwick, Scotland, training for the D-Day invasion he met his future wife, Rosemary Carr Hogg.

Early on D-Day Rendell-Baker and his medical team landed on Queen Red Beach, set up the dressing station in a nearby orchard and immediately started treating casualties.

He served with distinction in Europe until Christmas 1946, when his unit was demobilized.

He and Rosemary then married on Aug. 17, 1946, in Ayr, Scotland.

After the war, Rendell-Baker trained in anesthesiology at Guy's Hospital and then became a staff anesthesiologist at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary in Wales.

In 1955 to 1956, he spent a year as a Fulbright visiting assistant professor at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. In 1957 he immigrated permanently to the United States as associate professor of anesthesiology at Western Reserve University Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.

From 1962 to 1979, Rendell-Baker was chairman of the department of anesthesiology at Mount Sinai Hospital and Medical School, and clinical professor of anesthesiology at the Columbia University School of Medicine in New York City.

In 1979, at the invitation of Dr. James Meyer, chief of anesthesia at the VA hospital, Rendell-Baker moved to Redlands and became a staff anesthesiologist at the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial VA Hospital in Loma Linda. He was also a professor of anesthesiology at Loma Linda University School of Medicine where, upon retirement, he was named emeritus clinical professor in 1998.

After leaving active practice, Rendell-Baker focused his attention on the history of anesthesia and continued to lecture, publish and exhibit on this subject until 2000.

Rendell-Baker served as member, leader and committee chairman on nine medical associations, scientific research societies and standards advisory boards. He was a frequent speaker and exhibitor at national and international Congresses of Anesthesia.

He co-authored three anesthesia textbooks, wrote chapters for 11 others and was a frequent contributor of articles to medical journals.

His biography appears in "Who's Who in America" and in "Notable Names in Anesthesia," published by the Royal Society of Medicine Press.

Rendell-Baker was a world traveler and avid photographer. He was known for his beautiful and artistic photographs of nature and the scenery throughout his travels, and also produced the photos for all his professional work.

Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Rosemary Rendell-Baker of Redlands; daughters Sheila Rendell-Baker of Running Springs, Helen Rendell-Baker of Wilton, Conn., and Nelda Rendell-Baker of Reno, Nev.; four grandchildren, Katie and Allie Sayegh of Reno Nev., Jack L'Allier and Anna Rendell-Baker of Wilton, Conn.; and son-in-law Jean-Louis L'Allier of Wilton, Conn.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., Monday, Aug. 18, at Cortner Chapel, 221 Brookside Ave., Redlands.

His family thanks Kathy Popejoy and Brenda Tranmer, who, "through their dedication, selflessness and caring made it possible for Rosemary to provide loving care to her husband at home. Without them, it would not have been possible."