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Vale Victor Ian Callanan
28 February, 2023
ABC North Queensland
Listen to ABC Tribute podcast
Associate Professor Victor Ian Callanan AM MBBS FANZCA FCICM FFPMANZCA FACTM DipDHM
Vic Callanan passed away in Townsville on the 4
of Feb 2023. It was perhaps fitting that around the time of his death Townsville, his home for most of his professional life, was lashed by a spectacular tropical storm.
An accomplished and extraordinarily respected clinician, organiser and teacher, Vic made huge contributions to Medicine in the fields of Anaesthetics, Intensive Care, Hyperbaric Medicine, Pain Medicine and Resuscitation, and to the North Queensland community more broadly.
Vic was born in Lismore on 22
May 1942, his mother having been moved from Brisbane at the height of the threat of Japanese invasion. They returned to Queensland two years later, and Vic essentially remained a proud Queenslander for the rest of his life.
After attending the Brisbane Grammar School for his secondary education, Vic studied medicine at the University of Queensland, graduating in 1965. He worked as an intern at the Royal Brisbane hospital before becoming the medical superintendent of Home Hill hospital for 4 years, which was a requirement to repay his scholarship to the Queensland Government.
Vic moved back to Brisbane in 1971, spending 2 years as an anaesthetic registrar at the Mater hospital before moving to Sydney for another 2 years at the St Vincent’s hospital undertaking further training in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care.
Vic returned to the north in 1975, invited to take up the position as Director of Anaesthetics and establish the anaesthetic department. He essentially built the intensive care unit from scratch, and over the next few years founded the pain service and the hyperbaric medicine unit. He remained Director of Anaesthesia until 2011. His aptitude for and love of hands-on clinical work and clinical mentoring were clear until he retired in 2016.
Vic was a driving force in every aspect of improving medical services in North Queensland. He was central to the expansion of the Townsville General Hospital, constantly pushing for improvements and establishment of tertiary services, Cardiac Surgery and Oncology being standout examples. He was a passionate advocate of the relocation of the Townsville Hospital to the Douglas campus, and spent countless hours helping to make it happen. He was also part of the steering committee to establish a medical school at James Cook University.
Vic’s professional interests were varied and far reaching. He was an expert in the management of marine stings, and many of the preventive and treatment strategies seen in the north are in large part due to Vic.
He was president of the Australian Resuscitation Council and a member of the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation, constantly advancing the role of CPR in the community.
He was heavily involved in College affairs including as an Examiner, Regional Committee member and the initial Perioperative Medicine Committee. He was medical advisor to Surf Lifesaving Queensland , Queensland Ambulance and the Anton Breinl Centre of James Cook University.
Vic received many accolades throughout his life, including the Renton prize for the Primary examination, the Australian Resuscitation Council Roll of Honour, the ARC Medal, the ANZCA Citation and in 2005 the Member of the Order of Australia.
While undertaking his many professional achievements Vic maintained a love of music, especially Italian opera, and was a skilled wood craftsman. His deteriorating health in later life limited his ability to pursue these interests, a situation that he bore with remarkably good grace.
For many of us, Vic’s greatest legacy is the profound influence he had on generations of doctors of every level due to the wonderful example he set.
He had an amazing combination of being incredibly bright, fantastically knowledgeable, had great practical common sense and unparalleled technical skill. He was also incredibly cool under pressure and was empathic and compassionate to staff, patients and their relatives.
Vic was very approachable, ready to offer advice and support colleagues which encouraged even the most junior staff to ask for help. Many did and still remember those conversations to this day. Even after retirement he enjoyed interacting with colleagues and still many insights were gained over a coffee with Vic.
Vic is survived by his wife Doreen, his loving extended family, and a legacy of clinical and personal excellence.
He helped guide the professional careers of countless Anaesthetists and Intensivists throughout Australia. We have truly stood on the shoulders of a giant and are forever in his debt.
Chris Butler MBBS, Dip DHM, FANZCA, MPH&TM, Cert DHM, PGDipEcho
Senior staff specialist
Department of Anaesthesia
Townsville university Hospital
Michael Corkeron CSC MBBS (Hons) FANZCA FCICM Grad Cert Health Management
Senior staff specialist
Departments of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care
Townsville University Hospital