Lives of the fellows

John Lewtas (Sir) Frew

b.10 September 1912 d.8 May 1985
Kt(1981) OBE(1976) MB BS Melb(1935) MD(1938) MRACP(1938) MRCP(1938) FRACP(1951) FRCP(1960) PRACP(1972-74) Hon AM Singapore(1971) Hon FACP(1973) Hon FAMA(1980)

John (Jock) Lewtas Frew, consultant physician to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Australia, was born in Melbourne, the son of Joseph Davidson Frew, master mariner, and his wife Charlotte Lewtas Neale. He was educated at Camberwell Grammar School and Scotch College, then at Melbourne University and Ormond College, graduating in 1935. He pursued his clinical studies at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and began an association which was to last until his death 53 years later. It was only to be interrupted by the second world war when he served as a captain in the AAMC 1941-45, being assigned to the 13th Army General Hospital, and by the short period he spent working with the late Lord Rosenheim [Munk’s Roll, Vol. VI,p.394] at University College London. He saw war service in Malaysia, Burma and Thailand, spending a period as a prisoner of the Japanese after the fall of Singapore. In collaboration with Lord Rosenheim, he published an important paper on the labile neurogenic component in hypertension, Clinical Science 1949,7, 217-229. From 1948 Jock Frew served the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and its clinical school of the University of Melbourne, without further interruption.

With the hospital and its clinical school he held successively the posts of RMO, medical superintendent, honorary physician to outpatients and then to inpatients, secretary and chairman of the medical staff, sub-dean of the clinical school, member of the faculty of medicine, lecturer in therapeutics, member and vice-president of the board of management, and finally president for six years.

He was an active member of many organizations, notably the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. His association with the College began when he was appointed to the board of censors in 1954. In 1961 he was elected to the Council, and he became censor-in-chief of the College in 1966. During his four years in this office he introduced the first multiple choice question papers which have now become an established part of the examination. In 1970 he was elected vice-president. He had a deep interest in the teaching of medicine in South-East Asia. In 1972 he was elected president of the College and served for two years.

Jock Frew also served the Repatriation Commission for many years as visiting physician to Heidelberg Hospital and was an active contributor to its postgraduate teaching programme. As a member of the government of victoria’s medical salaries (Dillon) committee his work led to significant developments in hospital services in the State. He was a member of the Australian drug evaluation committee, and for many years its chairman. He was a councillor of the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association and honoured by this body, by election to the Fellowship in 1980.

For his work under the Colombo Plan, as a postgraduate teacher in medicine, he was elected an honorary member of the Academy of Medicine in Singapore in 1971. He was made an honorary Fellow of the American College of Physicians in 1973 in recognition of ‘his outstanding contribution in the health service of his country’. In 1976 he was awarded the OBE, and in 1981 he was knighted for his services to medicine.

Jock would have admitted that he was a workaholic. After Friday meetings in Sydney or Canberra he would fly back to Melbourne, visit his patients in various private hospitals, and chair one or other of his many committees before going home. He remained thoroughly up to date in his knowledge of medicine despite the size of his practice, his advancing years, and his many professional and community activities, and was always very carefully prepared for committee meetings. He was a thoroughly competent professional, who saw his own knighthood as a recognition of the role and status of the consultant physician. Believing that a physician is called to serve, he willingly gave his time and energies to many professional and community bodies and activities.

In these days of highly specialized medical practice, Jock Frew may have been almost the last of a generation of great Australian consultant general physicians. His wisdom in clinical practice, his humour and humanity, the extent of his knowledge together with his quickness and penetration of intellect, and his slightly unusual cast of mind, are quite irreplaceable. Even when mingling easily in a group of men there was something in his quality of mind which set him a little apart from his fellows. He was a gifted clinical teacher and spent much time in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, almost always at the bedside. In later years he concentrated especially on preparing young postgraduates for the examination of the RACP. His skill as a physician was evinced by the large number of doctors, and members of doctor’s families, who were his patients. His understanding of people resulted in many seeking his advice, including members of the nursing and administrative staff at the hospital. He was one of a group of outstanding Australian doctors whose entire hospital service was without any financial reward, and he firmly believed in the value of honorary service.

Jock enjoyed rugby football, being a Melbourne and Australian University blue, but it was of cricket that he talked. Much of his leisure was spent watching first class matches at the Melbourne and Sydney cricket grounds. He was also a keen amateur photographer. But the great concern of his life was medicine and all that went with it.

In 1940 Jock married Joy Bell, who had graduated in medicine two years before him. They were mutually supportive and their marriage brought peace and happiness to them both, and to their son John. Joy’s invaluable contribution to Jock’s welfare and achievements was fully understood and appreciated by him. To be a privileged guest at the Frew’s home was to be among friends, to be wined and dined royally, and to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and spirited conversation.

S Goulston
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

[Med. J. of Aust., 1985,143,467-68; Minute of Board of Management,Royal Melb .Hosp., 1985; Convocation Program of Amer.Coll.Phys., 9 April 1973; College Newsletter RACP,4,no 9; AMA Gaz.,Feb 1981,34]

(Volume VIII, page 170)

<< Back to List