Lives of the fellows

Gavin Stewart McLaren Kellaway

b.8 September 1927 d.11 November 2000
CBE(1995) MB ChB Otago(1952) MRCP Edin(1955) MRCP(1958) MRACP(1959) MD(1959) FRACP(1966) FRCP Edin(1971) FRCP(1975)

Gavin Kellaway, former professor of pharmacology at Auckland, New Zealand, had an illustrious career and made major contributions to medicine, both in his home city and nationally.

Gavin, always an Aucklander, was the only child of Marjory and Albert Kellaway. He was educated at King's College and then lived at Knox College while at Dunedin studying medicine. Tales from his contemporaries indicate a very social time as a student, with expertise in bridge developing to the detriment of progress in biochemistry.

He graduated MB ChB in 1952, spent two years as a house officer in Auckland and then set off to the UK for postgraduate training. Before leaving New Zealand he and Ann Horton married, after something of a whirlwind romance. Ann was a constant companion and supporter of Gavin in the subsequent years and he publicly acknowledged her contribution to his career when they launched the Auckland Medical Research Foundation clinical research fellowship that bears both their names.

In the UK Gavin was a house officer at the Hammersmith and the Brompton Hospitals and then registrar at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary with the cardiologist Rae Gilchrist [Munk's Roll, Vol. X, p.164]. In this environment Gavin flourished, he received training in internal medicine and cardiology and attained membership of both the Edinburgh and London Colleges. He wrote his MD thesis on aspects of cor pulmonale, beginning a lifelong interest in pharmacology, a science in which he was largely self-educated. Gavin had many friends in medicine in Britain and kept close contact with them over the rest of his life.

On his return to Auckland he was full time physician at Greenlane Hospital from 1959 to 1961 and he consulted at the National Women's Hospital, continuing there as sole physician for many years, dealing with the medical disorders of pregnancy.

In 1962 he was appointed visiting physician at Auckland Hospital and took over the private consulting practice of Wilton Henley [Munk's Roll, Vol. VII, p.256]. He ran a most successful practice, his clinical knowledge, personality and well-developed clinical sixth sense combined to make him a most effective and sought after opinion. From the mid-1970s he transferred the practice to rooms at the family home in Victoria Avenue. Only when he was left out of the doctors' listing in the phone book in 1997, was he able to persuade the last of his devoted patients that he really had retired.

In 1968 when the Auckland University opened its school of medicine Gavin was appointed to plan and teach the clinical pharmacology course, which he did with characteristic energy. He was later to rise in the academic ranks to associate professor and in 1989, when the foundation professor retired, Gavin was invited to take the chair of pharmacology and clinical pharmacology, together with the headship of the department. He held this with distinction until his retirement in 1993. Under his leadership the department expanded and increased the graduate programme.

Gavin had a major impact on the safe and effective delivery of medicine to New Zealanders; as a teacher and leader, as consulting editor to ADIS Press, as adviser to many pharmaceutical companies, as chairman of the New Zealand chapter of the Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists, and on all three drug regulatory committees. Gavin gave immense amounts of time to the Medicines Assessment and Advisory Committee, the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee and the Medicines Adverse Reactions Committee, as a member from their beginnings in the early 1970s till the mid 1990s, chairing two of them for much of that time.

Gavin was president of the Auckland division of New Zealand Medical Association. For 30 years he was a member or chair of the medical advisory committee of the Auckland Medical Research Foundation (AMRF), later becoming deputy chair of the board. He was passionate about clinical research and through AMRF did much to foster this in Auckland.

Despite such a busy professional life Gavin always had time for his family and for fun; summer holidays on the Coromandel peninsula and skiing in winter were entered into with total enthusiasm. Gavin continued to ski until the last few years of his life and he was a regular at the Auckland golf club. He had time for his friends and colleagues; many were guided in their careers by his wise counsel and mentorship.

He had a lifelong interest in horse racing and thoroughbred breeding. He held all possible positions in the Auckland racing club. He was president from 1992 to 1994. In amongst all this he ran several very successful dairy farms, which his son continues to supervise.

The diagnosis of prostate cancer came just at the time he finished his public sector jobs, but he had several good years of retirement which he thoroughly enjoyed. He was sorely restricted in the last months of his life, but he did not allow his illness to interfere with his philosophy that life is for living. He remained fascinated by, and in touch with both medicine and racing to the last.

In 1995 Gavin was awarded the CBE for his contribution to medicine; a well-deserved recognition for a colleague who has had such a profound influence on New Zealand medicine. Gavin is survived by Ann, his children Sarah and James, and three grandchildren, and by a generation of doctors who learnt from him about the wise and appropriate use of medicines.

Robin H Briant

[Proc.R.Coll.Physicians.Edinb. 2001:31:268]

(Volume XI, page 310)

<< Back to List