Lives of the fellows

Friedrich Walter Gunz

b.17 November 1914 d.30 October 1990
MRCS LRCP(1939) MB BS Lond(1939) MD(1942) MRCP(1942) PhD Cantab(1950) FRACP(1967) FRCP(1969)

It is characteristic of Fred Gunz that although until aged 18 he had only a smattering of English, learnt as a third language at the Herder School in Berlin, he not only spoke without a trace of accent but derived perhaps his greatest intellectual satisfaction from the niceties of English composition. This is reflected in the precision and readability of his major work Leukemia, New York, Grune & Stratton, 1956, which he wrote with William Dameshek; in the erudition with which he undertook the editorship of Pathology from 1978-85, and even in the pleasure with which he looked forward to completing the Sydney Morning Herald crossword each evening in the company of his wife during his last years.

He was born in Munich, where is father Hugo Gunz was in business. His mother, Johanna née Loewenfeld, was the daughter of a professor of law. In Fred’s youth, one ambition was foremost - to be a concert pianist. Pragmatism and circumstances decreed instead a career in medicine since his mother, who was both foresighted and determined, realized that there was no future in the Germany of 1933 for a talented young man of Jewish extraction. And so to London and a crammer’s course in order to gain the English matriculation - which he did with such distinction that he gained a scholarship to St Bartholomew’s Hospital medical school. Although poor, Fred’s years as a medical student, living in a flat with his only sister, were happy times, notable for a University junior championship with the épée and a pass with distinction in medicine. If some of the events of the next few years were upsetting, he never made his feelings known and always remained devoted to his adopted country.

He was not appointed to a place on the house staff of Bart’s to which his academic record entitled him; as his naturalization was not completed before the outbreak of war, he was interned and sent to Canada for 18 months after Dunkirk, when his real desire was to join the British Forces. But soon after his return to England in 1942, he obtained both his MD and the MRCP, and a post as assistant clinical pathologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

The years at Cambridge were to determine Fred’s future in more ways than one: his marriage to Joan Tuckey and their three children were a source of peace and pleasure throughout his life, and his attachment as Saltwell research scholar to the just opened department of radiotherapeutics saw him engaged in research for his PhD in the then novel field of leukaemic cell culture.

Consultant posts were not easy to obtain in 1949 but Cedric Britton, a former Christchurch (NZ) man then in Cambridge, had been asked by the North Canterbury Hospital Board in New Zealand to recruit a haematologist for their recently expanded department of pathology. Thus started perhaps the most productive and certainly the happiest 17 years of Fred Gunz’s life. Although a provincial hospital (the clinical school was established there only in the 1960s), Christchurch has a record of excellence then manifest in the departments staffed by salaried doctors - radiology, pathology and radiotherapy - and it was with the last two that Fred was closely associated. He expanded the blood transfusion service, introducing a mobile donor unit for which he himself drove the ’bus to each township of North Canterbury, and created the tumour research unit which, with remarkable prescience, he transformed in 1962 into a cytogenetics unit with financial backing from the New Zealand Cancer Society. Peter Fitzgerald was a happy choice as first research officer in the unit and together they achieved international recognition with the discovery of the Christchurch chromosome in lymphocytic leukaemia.

During a sabbatical year in the USA, at the New England Medical Center in 1956, Fred was given the opportunity which he felt transformed his career. His supervisor, William Dameshek, asked him to collaborate in the writing of Leukemia. Together they had almost completed the manuscript by the end of the year and the first edition appeared in 1958, to be followed by the second in 1964. For the third edition in 1974, and the fourth in 1983, Fred Gunz was the senior and Albert Baikie and Edward Henderson respectively the junior editors. To the fifth edition in 1990 Fred contributed the opening chapter.

By the 1960s Fred Gunz had considerable standing in New Zealand medicine, serving as president of the Senior Medical Officers’ Association and chairman of the central specialists’ committee of the New Zealand branch of the British Medical Association, and internationally on the editorial boards of Blood and Leukemia Research. It was with mixed feelings that he accepted an invitation to be director of medical research at Sydney Hospital’s Kanematsu Memorial Institute where he instituted a haematology unit (in which he was closely associated with Paul Vincent) principally directed to research and treatment in the field of leukaemia. His wife was able to join him in a study of clustering of leukaemia at that time and, later, on the editorial staff of Pathology.

During his 13 years as director of the Institute, renal medicine with transplantation and blood pressure research, haemorheology (headed by his friend and colleague, Allan Palmer) and cancer immunology also flourished. He exhibited a gift for administration which he came to enjoy and was rewarded by appointment as censor, later chief censor, in haematology for the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, and editor of their journal Pathology. There was no such thing as retirement for Fred Gunz. On stepping down from the Kanematsu Institute, he turned quietly to establishing support groups and palliative care services for patients with cancer and training programmes for professionals in the field of palliative care.

In 1981-6 he was the inaugural president of the NSW Palliative Care Association and then chairman of the NSW State Cancer Council’s Patient Care Committee. He had intended to hand over these responsibilities, so as to devote more time to the piano and to writing, when he died suddenly aged 75.

Fond of reading and music, Fred Gunz gained most pleasure from the disciplines of writing and playing the piano; successful in medical research and administration, he preferred to be caring for the sick; he derived as much satisfaction from his unpretentious achievements for the care of the terminally ill as he had had from his earlier positions of national stature.

J H Stewart

(Volume IX, page 215)

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