Lives of the fellows

Robert Charles Godfrey

b.28 May 1922 d.10 June 2000
AM(1983) MB BS Adelaide(1944) MRCP(1951) FRACMA(1968) FRACP(1971) FRCP(1977)

Bob Godfrey was one of the last physicians who combined medical administration and patient care. This was accomplished at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children (PMH) in Perth, Western Australia, where he worked in this dual role from 1953 to 1980.

While at the helm, he made many changes, taking PMH from a cottage hospital to a modern paediatric medical centre. They included free visiting for parents and the appointment of full-time physicians trained in paediatrics to support the visiting medical staff: at the same time he supervised the building of a new, up-to-date hospital. During this period also he introduced payment for those clinical staff who had previously worked on an honorary basis.

Bob was tall, blond, broad-shouldered and good looking. As a student he was quiet and retiring, and had the reputation of being rather lazy. However, when he took on the role of medical director at PMH he blossomed and became rather authoritarian, with strong views about how the hospital should be run. He insisted all patients should have equal access to the best medical treatment regardless of whether they were private or public patients. This caused some antagonism amongst the staff, but his concern was always for the welfare of the child. He was a good clinician and was nicknamed 'God' by the junior medical staff, partly because of his forceful manner, but also because his signature clearly displayed the first three letters of his name and then trailed away in an indecipherable scrawl.

Although the hospital was the main focus of his life, he was a classical music lover and a keen swimmer - he invariably won the doctor's race at hospital swimming events. He was a supporter of a variety of charity groups designed to help children, in particular the Save the Children Fund.

Bob completed his undergraduate medical course in Adelaide, graduating in 1944, and then undertook post-graduate training in London at the Queen Charlotte and Belgrave Hospitals. He married Betty Ann Wadsworth in 1955, and they had two daughters and a son.

After retiring from his position as medical director in 1980, he continued to work at PMH as a consultant until 1986. The last few years of his life were plagued by Parkinson's disease, from which he eventually died.

He will be remembered for his contribution to the development of Princess Margaret Hospital and paediatrics in general in Western Australia, and was recognised for this when he received an AM in 1983.

I S Wallman

(Volume XI, page 225)

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