Lives of the fellows

Jack Dilworth Haslett Matthews

b.28 June 1917 d.22 June 2005
MB ChB New Zealand(1940) DCH(1947) MRCP(1948) FRCP(1972)

Jack Matthews pioneered neonatal paediatrics in New Zealand. He was born in Mount Albert, Auckland, and was educated at Takapuna Primary School and Takapuna Grammar School. He graduated from Otago University in 1940 and was attached to the Auckland Hospital Board as a resident for two years and then as a senior medical registrar.

In 1943, he joined the New Zealand Army Medical Corps and served in the Middle East and the Central Mediterranean until his transfer to London, where he was discharged in 1946. Remaining in London, he undertook postgraduate study at the Hammersmith Hospital, Princess Louise Children's Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street. He gained his diploma in child health in 1947 and his membership of the College in 1948. He married his fiancée Jo Speedy in London and returned to New Zealand a year later as a ship's medical officer on the New Zealand Star Line.

In Auckland, Jack went into private practice as a general physician and paediatrician, and in 1950 was appointed paediatrician to the recently established obstetrics and gynaecology unit at Cornwall Hospital, which in 1954 was renamed the National Women's Hospital. In 1951, the postgraduate school of obstetrics and gynaecology opened there as New Zealand's first and only postgraduate obstetrical training hospital.

The first paediatrician appointed specifically to an obstetric service in New Zealand, Jack was on call every day, night and weekend (except for two weeks annual holiday) until he was joined by a second paediatrician in 1955. He was appointed senior paediatrician at Green Lane Hospital and honorary physician to Karitane Hospital in 1960.

In 1964, Jack was awarded the Heinz travelling fellowship in paediatrics by the British Paediatric Association and spent three months postgraduate work in Britain, United States, Canada and Australia. He was appointed as a clinical reader in paediatrics in the medical school, University of Auckland, in 1972 and became a Fellow of the College in the same year. He was also a member and fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. He was a keen member of both the NZ O&G Society and the Paediatric Society of New Zealand, being secretary of the latter for ten years and president for three years.

Jack was an enthusiastic and effective teacher of undergraduate and postgraduate doctors and nurses. For example, in 1964, he was the prime mover in setting up a post-certificate course in newborn nursing, the first of its kind in Australia or New Zealand. He was a team man who gave strong support to his colleagues and fostered the development of nurses and young doctors. It was an exciting time in neonatal paediatrics and his unit was involved in the development and evolution of significant advances, which included the world's first successful intrauterine transfusion for rhesus disease by William Liley in 1963, and later with Mont Liggins and Ross Howie, in the prevention of lung disorders of premature babies by means of corticosteroids given before birth.

At his retirement in 1982, Jack reflected on the enormous advances he had seen in the care of children during his time. These ranged from the introduction of antibiotics and vaccines for infectious diseases and surgery for congenital disorders to recognisably modern newborn intensive care.

Jack's interests were not only scientific and medical: he encouraged and witnessed radical changes in society's attitudes to the relationship between children and their parents. Parenting became less rigid and authoritarian, with a more human approach and understanding. He championed the change from the practise of separating mothers and newborn babies in Cornwall Hospital, encouraging 'rooming in' (now standard practise) and breast-feeding. He was a strong supporter of the New Zealand Plunkett Society and its Karitane hospitals because they provided essential continuing support of mothers and their young children in the community. Furthermore, he encouraged a comprehensive approach to the prevention and early diagnosis of disability, and the multidisciplinary management of disabled children and their families.

Jack was at National Women's Hospital at its inception, and he remained intensely proud of the institution and the principles it stood for. He retired from that hospital in 1982 but continued as an honorary consulting paediatrician at St Helens Maternity Hospital until 1986.

Jack was an exceptionally dedicated and caring doctor - an unassuming man who made an outstanding contribution to the improvement in the standards of care for the newborn and older children in New Zealand.

In all of this work Jack was strongly supported by his wife, Jo. He is survived by her and by his daughter Jill Crockett, son John Matthews and four grandchildren. He died in the Auckland City Hospital.

Ross Howie
John Matthews

[NZMJ,2005,Vol.118, No.1212]

(Volume XII, page web)

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