Lives of the fellows

Sandy Edwin John Robertson

b.18 October 1915 d.14 July 1988
BM BS Sydney(1939) MRACP(1947) MRCP(1951) FRACP(1961) FRCP(1974)

Sandy Robertson was born at Collarenebri, New South Wales, Australia, where his father Frederick Gordon Robertson was a general practitioner. He was educated at Cranbrook College, Sydney, gaining his colours in rugby, rowing and athletics. He graduated in medicine from Sydney University, pursuing his clinical studies at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and spending his first year after graduation as a resident medical officer at St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst.

In 1940, following the outbreak of the second world war, Sandy enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps and was commissioned as a captain in the 2/10 field ambulance, 8th division. In the same year he was sent to Rabaul, where he was captured in December 1941 while endeavouring to escape by boat to Papua, New Guinea, with other officers and nurses of the field ambulance. All were taken by ship to Zentzuji Camp on Shikoku Island, Japan. During his three years as a prisoner of war, Sandy lost the sight of one eye due to trauma after capture, and developed diabetes mellitus. He suffered severe malnutrition and it was his unemotional view that the starvation policy in the prison camp helped to save his life.

On demobilization Sandy began his medical career in general practice, devoting considerable energies to the Karitane Mothercraft Movement. In 1947 he was appointed an honorary relieving assistant physician to the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Camperdown. This was followed by the study of paediatrics both in Australia and the UK, where he obtained his membership of the College before returning to Australia. He rejoined the staff of the Children’s Hospital on his return, being appointed honorary physician in 1963, elected to the board of management in 1972, and remaining active until his retirement in 1980, when he was appointed as emeritus consultant physician. He was also senior clinical lecturer in paediatric medicine at the University of Sydney.

Sandy was in the vanguard of the management of juvenile diabetes. He became very experienced in haemolytic disease of the newborn, and his knowledge and work in this field were highly acclaimed. He was honorary paediatrician to St Margaret’s Hospital for Women and it was there he established the technique of exchange blood transfusion and performed more than 1000 such procedures. He became physician in charge of the haematology clinic at the Children’s Hospital, in close liaison with V A Lovric, the hospital’s haematologist.

Sandy Robertson was elected to the council of the Royal Blind Society of New South Wales, and served the Society for some 25 years as paediatrician and counsellor. In recognition of his important contribution, the Society named the Sandy Robertson Kindergarten, Burwood, in his honour.

The staff of the hospitals on which he served will remember his ready availabilty, his dedicated care of the sick, and his willingness to teach - both by his example as well as by his words.

In 1940 he married Gwenda Ashcroft, daughter of an electrical engineer, and they had two daughters, Edwina and Victoria, who gave them seven grandchildren. His interests outside medicine were golf, gardening and philately. His family all survived him.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

[Aust.Paediats.J., 1988,24,000-000]

(Volume VIII, page 422)

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