Lives of the fellows

Gavan Rintoul Sparrow

b.8 April 1925 d.18 February 1994
MB BS Melb(1948) DCH(1956) MRCP(1957) FRCP(1982)

Gavan Sparrow was born in Victoria, Australia, the son of Leo Augustine Sparrow, a clerk. He was educated at St Kevin’s College, Melbourne, and studied medicine at Melbourne University. After a visit to Western Australia with a university hockey team during his medical studies, he decided that he would like to live in Perth. In 1949, after a house post at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, he obtained a position as RMO at the Perth Children’s Hospital - now the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children - and worked there as a registrar from 1951 to 1954. He then went into general practice in Perth for a year, but later decided to take up paediatrics as a specialty. In 1955 he went to the UK and spent the next two years at the Central Middlesex Hospital in London, during which time he obtained his membership of the College.

In 1958 he returned to Western Australia and the Children’s Hospital, where he worked until 1960 when he went into private practice. In 1961 he was appointed consultant paediatrician at both the Children’s Hospital and the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, working in the neonatal ward. On reaching retirement age, he relinquished his hospital appointments but continued to work in private practice until his death.

Gavan was a fine paediatrician and very meticulous in his work. He wrote copious detailed notes and was extremely patient with both parents and children. However busy he might be he never refused to have a full discussion with parents about their children’s problems. In the out-patient department he was well known for ‘fitting in’ patients who needed attention, even though his lists were already full. As a result he was occasionally late for appointments but was always excused on account of his kindness and consideration to both staff and patients. Even in his later years he maintained his patience when telephoned late at night by anxious parents.

Outside medicine, Gavan was an enthusiastic sportsman. At the age of 40 he had a heart attack and required bypass surgery. This curtailed his ability to play squash and tennis, which he had enjoyed. He was also a keen golfer and despite three minor strokes, and cardiac pain from time to time, he continued his regular rounds of golf until a few days before he died. As a spectator, he had a passion for Australian Rules Football, that extraordinary mixture of aggression, skills and Gaelic origins. He was a fanatical supporter of the East Fremantle team where he was the club doctor for many years. Gavan had a quiet personality and seldom forced his opinions on others but when he watched football at the weekend he was - to use his wife’s words - "a raving lunatic".

Gavan married Moya, daughter of Maxwell Henry Montgomery, in 1953 and they had five children. He was a devout Roman Catholic and was quite often called upon to give talks to religious groups. He was an active member of the ‘right to life’ group, but had a very balanced approach to medicine and its dilemmas and it was not until his death that the writer became aware of his involvement.

I S Wallman

(Volume X, page 463)

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