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Garry David Phillips, 7 November 1936 – 25 July 2016
Professor Garry Phillips, one of Australia’s best known academic anaesthetists and the 5
President of ANZCA (1996-1998), died quietly at home after battling motor neurone disease (MND) for his last few years. He was most respected as a good clinician and as a very sound opinion on both medical and medico-political issues.
Garry contributed greatly to ANZCA over a long period not just during his years on Council but later as the first Director of Professional Affairs (DPA) for the College (1999-2005). His period as DPA was so successful that the Council rapidly moved to employ a number of DPAs for different administrative professional activities. During these years that Garry continued to sit as a resource person on Council his opinion was constantly sought because of his corporate knowledge as well as his balanced opinion on all matters. Often he appeared to be asleep at Council and committee meetings only to suddenly become aroused to pronounce the only sensible words that immediately brought what had been a tedious discussion to a sudden close. His presidency is commemorated in the College by a sculptured bust by Margery Ralph and etchings of him by his daughter Anna Phillips. These are an indication of his independent view of such things as all other presidents are remembered with portraits either in oil or most recently as a studio photograph.
Garry was born, the middle child of three, in Bendigo Victoria where he attended the Marist Brothers College. Later, following the death of his GP father when he was 12, he boarded at St Ignatius’ College Riverview in Sydney where he represented the school in the senior teams for athletics, rowing and rugby. Following school Garry “spent a year doing a variety of things” one of which was 3 months in the Watsonia Seminary in Melbourne where he quickly decided that the priesthood was not for him; “and then made up my mind to go to Papua New Guinea as a Cadet Patrol Officer”. As a Patrol Officer Garry was exposed to trauma, chronic illnesses, and infections amongst the population. He himself contracted malaria, hepatitis and dengue. These experiences, along with a query from an oil expedition leader about what he was going to do when he had enough of New Guinea, set him thinking and in the last week before term started in 1958 he enrolled in medicine at the University of Sydney. These days he would have not been able to be selected and medicine would have been much the poorer. He graduated MB BS in 1965 (final year 1964) following an intercalated year for a BSc(Med) on
Induced Autoimmune Colitis in Animals
. As a student he drove taxis and later had quite a reputation for driving fast through narrow traffic gaps on Glen Osmond Road, and more recently this skill was transferred to his wheelchair.
Garry and Marcia (née Overton) married as final year students and then, as married interns were not favoured at the same hospital, Garry went to St George Hospital, Sydney, and Marcia to Canterbury & District Hospital, and for their second year to Mersey Hospital Tasmania where marrieds were acceptable! In both hospitals Garry did anaesthesia terms finding a natural aptitude. He thus decided to train in anaesthesia back at St George Hospital over the next three years as one of two registrars with Dick Young as the Director. Then they were off overseas to Westminster Hospital London with Organe, Scurr and Feldman – high names in British anaesthesia at the time. Later working at East Grinstead he was “offered a job with a future at the London Clinic” but Australia beckoned. On the way home he worked 6 month terms in intensive care with Bertil Lofstrom at the Serafimer Hospital in Stockholm and at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto with Al Conn.
Garry returned as foundation Director of Intensive Care to St George Hospital in 1973, but soon was appointed as Chief of Intensive Care at the then new Flinders Medical Centre Adelaide in 1976 with Michael Cousins as Head of the University Department of Anaesthesia. Michael remembers Garry for many attributes but one stands out – “Blinding Sanity! ”– an attribute that everyone who knew Garry would endorse. He also mentioned “integrity, reliability, loyalty, equanimity and generosity”. At Flinders Garry honed his administrative skills within the hospital and more widely in intensive care and anaesthesia with the then Faculty of Anaesthetists RACS; and also becoming Director of Accident & Emergency which led to being integral to the foundation of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) and subsequently its Censor-in-Chief. He was awarded ACEMs Foundation 20 Medal in 2003 for his contributions to that College. Garry had the honour to be an examiner for the final specialist examinations for anaesthesia, intensive care and emergency medicine. Garry retired from emergency medicine when Chris Baggoley returned to Flinders, and then when Michael Cousins went to Sydney Garry elected to retire from intensive care to become Director of Anaesthesia and Professor – finally retiring from Flinders in 2001 as Emeritus Professor. In 1986 he was elected to the Board of the Faculty of Anaesthetists RACS and retired from the ACEM Council in 1988 because of a potential conflict of interest.
As an early Australian intensivist Garry was very involved in the establishment of intensive care as a specialty, and was a founding member of ANZICS and the Section of Intensive Care, and became a Fellow of the College of Intensive Care Medicine (CICM) on the foundation of that College after its many metamorphoses within ANZCA. He had a major research interest in parenteral nutrition with many publications on this topic, and his administrative skills were well utilised in workforce studies particularly for intensive care and anaesthesia.
At the time of his final retirement from ANZCA in 2005 Garry was awarded the Robert Orton Medal for distinguished service. This award is the highest that the College bestows. In the same year he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) “for service to medicine, particularly in the areas of anaesthesia, intensive care and emergency care, and to medical education”.
Soon after arriving in Adelaide Garry had established a close working and teaching relationship with the St John Ambulance Service later the SA Ambulance Service. He strongly supported the introduction of the BHSc(Ambulance) at Flinders University steering it through University administration including relocating the Ambulance Education Unit to integrate with Flinders. In recognition of his contributions he was made a Serving Brother of the Order of St John in 1984 and an Officer of the Order in 1996. In 1988 Garry had been an early enthusiast and instructor for the RACS’s Emergency Management of Severe Trauma (EMST) course which cemented the close association between surgeons and anaesthetists on this course. In 1993 following the first EMST course in PNG he was invited to teach anaesthesia and became a Visiting Professor four times per year within the School of Medicine UPNG from 1997 until 2004. There have been very many letters of condolence sent from anaesthetists in PGN all of whom report on Garry’s tremendous mentoring, and expressing their heartfelt thanks for his encouragement and leadership. ANZCA established the Professor Garry Phillips Prize and Medal for the best candidate in the MMed(Anaes) UPNG in recognition of his raising of the standards in anaesthesia in PNG.
Garry showed an early interest in historical matters with a publication in 1962 on Hippocrates. This interest continued when a trainee at St George with his friendship with Gwen Wilson, the Australian doyen of historians in anaesthesia. During his DPA and retirement years this interest flourished with a number of historical publications including two landmark books on the history of Intensive Care –
The History of ANZICS in Australia and New Zealand – a record of events
(2000 with Ron Trubuhovich) and
Intensive Care Medicine in Australia – Its origins and development
He was renowned for his attention to detail but occasionally that got the better of him. In his final year as ANZCA President the Adelaide Crows had a good season winning their first premiership. During the Finals period the then CEO Joan Sheales herself an avid AFL supporter asked Garry what he thought about the Crows this year to be astounded by his reply “I don’t know, are there a lot around this year?”
Garry relied heavily on Marcia for support and is on record as saying “I did not realise until after I retired how supportive and tolerant Marcia was and how much she had to compensate to practice regularly, and to manage home and five children through school and university!” He was close to his father-in-law who advised him to “plan to leave the world a better place for you having been born”, which as his family said was his
. Garry and Marcia shared a deep and abiding faith which helped them to deal with his difficulties with MND which were approached with grace and equanimity. He is survived by Marcia, his children (Helen, Madeleine, Anthony, Anna and Stephen) and 13 grandchildren. Our sincere condolences go to them and to all his many friends much saddened by his passing.
AB Baker AM
University of Sydney