Lives of the fellows

Gwyn Howells

b.13 May 1918 d.26 July 1997
CB(1979) MB BS Lond(1940) MRCP(1950) MD(1950) FRACP(1971) FRCP(1974)

A former director-general of health in Australia, Gwyn Howells built a distinguished career in medical administration. He was born in Birmingham and studied at the University of London and St Bartholomews Hospital. Between 1942 and 1946 he served in the RAMC and in the Indian Army. After house physician and registrar appointments and general practice experience in Leeds, Bradford and Cornwall in 1953, he became a chest physician in Derby.

In 1957 he was appointed physician in thoracic medicine at Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia and also supervised the tuberculosis control programme in the western Queensland area. In 1966 he was appointed to the Commonwealth Department of Health in Canberra where he was in charge of the very successful national programme to control tuberculosis. He was promoted in 1973 to the administrative position of deputy director-general of the Department of Health for Australia. Very shortly afterwards he was made director-general of health, a position in which he continued until his retirement in 1983.

During his time as director-general Gwyn Howells was also chairman of the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, director of Quarantine Services and chairman of the Australian Health Insurance Commission. He also represented Australia at World Health Organization assemblies in Geneva, attended tuberculosis regional conferences and visited migrant centres for the Australian government. He also led an Australian medical delegation to China.

While working in the Department of Health Gwyn Howells became involved in the co-ordination of activities related to vision and hearing problems and after his retirement he remained actively involved with the study of aspects of cochlear implants.

Apart from his medical and administrative work, he was an outstanding sportsman, playing rugby and hockey in his younger years and later tennis and squash. The Companion of the Order of the Bath was conferred on him in 1979. He married his wife, Simone, in 1942 and they had two sons and two daughters.

Cyril Evans

[The Canberra Doctor,Aug 1997; The Canberra Times,7 Aug 1997]

(Volume X, page 232)

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