Lives of the fellows

Eric Galton Saint

b.28 November 1918 d.21 February 1989
BSc Durh(1939) MB BS(1942) MD(1948) MRACP(1950) FRACP(1956) MRCP(1969) *FACMA(1969) FRCP(1972)

Eric Saint was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the son of an Anglican schoolmaster. He was educated at the Royal Grammar School and later at King’s College, University of Durham. He graduated with honours and, after a house post at the Royal Victoria Infirmary and a short spell as demonstrator in the physiology department of King’s College, he served as a medical officer with the RAFVR in South East Asia. He returned to Newcastle after the war and worked in the Nuffield department of industrial health, receiving his MD for a thesis on miners’ nystagmus.

Eric Saint came to Australia in 1948 as a member of the Royal Flying Doctor Service at Port Hedland. From there he passed the membership examination of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians with a brilliance which resulted in an invitation to join the clinical research unit of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. His years there, from 1951-53, were among the most productive of his career.

He returned to Western Australia in 1953 as director of the new clinical research unit at the Royal Perth Hospital. His major task was to help prepare for the development of a faculty of medicine in the University of Western Australia. He and his colleagues were outstandingly successful both in the academic and public spheres. The new school of medicine began in 1955 with Eric as foundation professor of medicine and subsequently dean of the faculty, 1961-62. During this period he helped develop a new curriculum with emphasis on clinical performance. He worked tirelessly in the community, and with government and other agencies, to establish medicine and medical education throughout Western Australia.

In 1968, he moved to the University of Queensland as dean of medicine, where he remained until his return to Perth in 1977. Here he was again active in curricular matters and in presenting the public face of the medical school to the medical profession and community.

Although he had heavy hospital and academic responsibilities, Eric Saint was also deeply involved in government and public activities and was an honorary fellow of the Australian College of Medical Administrators. He was an adviser to State and Federal governments -whether politically left or right - and to national and international organizations such as the NHMRC of Australia, the Harkness Foundation, the Nuffield Foundation and WHO. He worked widely for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians on State and Federal councils, and was awarded the prestigious College medal in 1986.

He was a good, occasionally inspired, clinician who imparted his love of medicine at the bedside, and also in tutorials and lectures, to the continuing benefit of his students and colleagues. He held many administrative posts but clinical medicine, considered in a wide social context, remained the heart of his professional life. His final years were spent in Perth, not in retirement but in active clinical practice for the State Health Department in the field of geriatrics and addiction and he died in harness.

Eric Saint was a man of great personal integrity and gifts and he was a truly dedicated physician. The man and his work were sides of the same coin; his duty was the alleviation of suffering and the comfort of the afflicted. He was a first class scholar, with a wide ranging mind, and interests in music and literature. He was a master of oral and written English, using it effortlessly and with brilliance.

He was received into the Roman Catholic Church and it was his religion, his marriage to Catherine O’Grady in 1941 and their three children - a daughter and two sons - that provided sources of serenity, inspiration and renewal.

R A Joske

[Med.J.Aust.,1989,151,481]

(Volume IX, page 457)

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