Lives of the fellows

Frank Lane Ritchie

b.6 December 1918 d.14 January 1982
CBE(1974) MB BS Sydney(1943) MRCP(1948) FRCPE(1957) FRACP(1969) FRCP(1974)

Frank Ritchie was born in Sydney, Australia, the only son of Harold John Ritchie, also a doctor, and his wife Elizabeth Jane, daughter of Hugh Swift, an engineer. His early education was at Tudor House and Geelong Grammar School. He studied medicine at Sydney University, pursuing his clinical studies at Sydney Hospital, and graduated in 1943. After a short period as a resident medical officer at Sydney Hospital, he enlisted in the Army Medical Corps of the Australian Imperial Forces, serving as medical officer to the 2/12th Field Ambulance, regimental medical officer to the 2/17th Australian Infantry Battalion, and physician to the 113th Australian General Hospital. On demobilization he undertook postgraduate studies at Johns Hopkins Hospital, USA, having been awarded a Nuffield travelling fellowship.

On his return to Australia he practised as a consultant physician in Macquarie Street, Sydney, for many years. He was also lecturer in therapeutics at Sydney University, senior physician at St Luke’s Hospital and Sydney Hospital, vice-president of the board of Sydney Hospital 1962-1968, and president of the board from 1968 until his death. He was a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1974. Outside the field of medicine he held appointments as chairman of the board of the National Mutual Life Association of Australia, and chairman of Intercommercial Properties Pty. He was awarded the CBE in 1974.

In 1947 he married Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Faunce Blair Tainton, a grazier, and they had one son and two daughters. The marriage was dissolved in 1972.

Frank Ritchie was an outstanding administrator as well as a good physician. He applied himself with dedication and skill to serving the needs of worthy causes, and in this respect the survival and advancement of Sydney Hospital as a teaching and general hospital on the Macquarie Street site became a matter of great importance and interest to him. He worked tirelessly for the institution with which he had a lifelong association, as student, intern, resident, teacher, vice-president and, finally, as chief executive. During his 14 years as president of the board he successfully steered the hospital through some of the most difficult times in its long and remarkable history. He had a strong belief in a role for Sydney Hospital as a centre for medical research, and was instrumental in establishing a research foundation which was inaugurated in 1978. He possessed the rare quality of being able to reduce complex issues to simple terms, and was thorough and resourceful in everything he did. Expecting high standards, he knew how to inspire and bring forth the best in others. He had a keen sense of history, an excellent understanding of politics, and a strong feeling of pride in Australian achievements.

Frank was a reserved man, given to philosophical thought, and with a quiet but well developed sense of humour. He enjoyed life and worked and played with enthusiasm. His leisure time, like his work time, was given to a wide range of activities. He was an adventurer, navigator, sportsman and electronics technician. In the later years of his life he made an annual sailing pilgrimage over the same route taken by Captain Cook when he travelled from Botany Bay to Cape York. Such journeys tested his skills, which included game fishing. They also provided release for his restless and adventurous spirit. He was a good physician, a good administrator, a good friend — and an outstanding Australian.

JJ Wedgwood
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme

[Eulogy, Sydney Hospital, 1982]

(Volume VII, page 497)

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