Lives of the fellows

Maurice Roy Joseph

b.29 July 1912 d.29 March 1996
BSc Sydney(1933) MB BS(1936) MRCP(1945) FRACP(1954) FRCP(1964)

Maurice Roy Joseph was a consultant physician at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, specializing in thoracic medicine. He was born in Sydney, Australia, the eldest of four brothers all of whom graduated in medicine. His schooling was at Cleveland and Fort Street state schools, which were renowned for scholarship. He won an exhibition in medicine at the University of Sydney Medical School, topping the first year and taking the Renwick prize, and sharing first place and the Caird prize in the second year. He then took a degree in physiology with Pete Davies, which involved original research and a period in the desert with Davies and colleagues at the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission in the Northern Territory, studying how the aboriginals survived in the desert heat, for which he received first class honours and a research prize. Graduating in medicine with honours, and after two resident years at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH), he became a lecturer in pathology at the University of Sydney before travelling to London as a ship’s doctor to do postgraduate work in thoracic medicine at the Brompton Hospital, London. During the voyage he met Isabelle Prentice, who was travelling to England to further her own nursing career.

Maurice’s service during the war was noteworthy. He was one of the first doctors to enlist in 1939 in the RAMC. He served gallantly in France for which he was mentioned in despatches, eventually reaching Dunkirk where his Army Corps reformed and boarded one of the small ships that took them to England and to safety. He and Isabelle were married in 1941 and soon after Maurice was posted to a British Army general hospital as a pathologist, serving in India for the remainder of the war. Soon after the German surrender the Royal College of Physicians sent a team of examiners to India to conduct an examination for membership at which he was successful.

On his return to Australia Maurice became student supervisor at RPAH and in April 1947 was appointed to the honorary medical staff, initially as a general physician. The evolution of specialties at RPAH in the 1950s propelled him into respiratory disease where he came under the influence of Cotter Harvey and Ted Maynard Rennie. These two pioneers of respiratory medicine had particular interests in the then complex management of tuberculosis and the new technique of bronchoscopy. Maurice took a keen interest in these areas and clearly impressed his senior colleagues whom he was later to succeed as head of the thoracic department in the Page Chest Pavilion. Maurice was also appointed as a consultant thoracic physician to the Repatriation General Hospital at Concord.

The late 1940s and early 1950s saw the first drugs for tuberculosis treatment and Maurice spent some time at the Mayo Clinic during this era of anti-tuberculosis drug development. Maurice wrote a history of these treatments in New South Wales for Tony Proust’s book on the history of tuberculosis (History of tuberculosis in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, Canberra, Brolga Press, 1991), in which he vividly outlines the struggle before the drugs became available.

Charles Lambie, professor of medicine, then entrusted Maurice with the full complement of lectures to students on thoracic medicine. His service to RPAH and Concord hospitals covered a period of thirty years and throughout this time he taught undergraduate and postgraduate students in respiratory medicine. Following his retirement he continued in an active capacity, attending the thoracic clinical meetings at both hospitals until his death. His contribution to RPAH was recognized by naming the major respiratory ward the Maurice Joseph Ward. Maurice was much sought after as a lecturer both nationally and internationally. A keen photographer, his collection of slides of different forms of chest disease was legendary. It was widely known that he would have an appropriate slide in his pocket to produce at the right time at clinical meetings. He presented his unique collection to the RPAH in 1990.

He was a founding member of the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and served a term as president. In appreciation of his long service to the Society he was honoured as the recipient of their prestigious award, the foundation gold medal, in 1988. He attended virtually every scientific meeting of the Society from its inception until the meeting held in Perth in 1996.

I would describe Maurice as the best all-rounder I have ever known. He was good and efficient at everything he undertook. He was an adventurer at heart and had a remarkably wide interest in outdoor activities and sport. He played polo-cross with the local Castle Hill team, rode horses on trail rides in the Alps of New South Wales, was a keen skiier and became a cross-country trekker as a member of the exclusive Squirrel Club who buried their stores in the summer and dug them out in winter as they trekked the main range around Mount Kosciusko and Mawson Hut. He surfed, played tennis, sailed with his brother Lynn, and canoed with his brother Neil. He even became, with Isabelle, a gourmet cook. Late in life, in his seventies, he earned his silver certificate as a glider pilot and, at the age of eighty, he made a parachute jump which he considered too risky in his sixties and seventies.

In later years Maurice became an avid aviator. He obtained his pilot’s licence at the age of fifty six and soon owned his own aircraft, a Piper Archer which was kept at Bankstown airfield. Early in his flying career, with his wife Isabelle, he took part in a Royal Aero Club flight to Nouméa, New Caledonia in the Pacific Ocean. The enormous map of Australia on a wall at his home was criss-crossed with circumnavigation and track lines. His regular ‘best’ was to Coff’s Harbour, New South Wales, once per month, where for sixteen years he conducted a consultant practice for the local GPs. Maurice was a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and a keen participant in the Guild of Air Pilots functions in New South Wales. He attended every meeting he could and his contribution in presence, humour, wisdom and adventure was always evident.

But Maurice was at his best in his own home. He was a wonderful husband to Isabelle, father to Anne, Andrew and Jenny, and grandfather to his many grandchildren. There was never any conflict with the time he had for his patients and the time for his family. He had a gregarious nature, able to accept a changing world while retaining the traditions and values of the old. He never forsook his Jewish heritage. He had a good sense of humour. He made countless friends from all walks of life and enjoyed the friendships of many colleagues at home and abroad. He died of a cardiac arrest soon after landing his aircraft safely at Ceduna, South Australia, flying back from Perth after attending a meeting of the Thoracic Society.

S J M Goulston

(Volume X, page 270)

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