Lives of the fellows

Bryan Austin David Curtin

b.28 November 1918 d.30 April 2004
MB BS Sydney(1942) MRCP(1950) FRACP(1960) FRCP(1975)

The first child of Major Austin Sydney Curtin AAMC and Cicely Mary Hughes was born in Old Court, Hangar Lane, Ealing, London, on 28 November, the month of the Armistice, 1918, and named in memory of his uncle, Captain Bryan Desmond Hughes MC, who had been killed in Flanders some three months earlier. His godfather was his mother’s first cousin, Geoffery Forest Hughes MC RFC. He was given as his second and third names the names of his father and paternal grandfather respectively, his grandfather, David, having died in 1916 while his father, Austin, was away at the war.

Major Curtin was repatriated to Australia as Senior Medical Officer of the troop ship “Benalla” and was accompanied by his wife and son, Bryan. The family settled in Grenfell, NSW in 1919 where his father had a medical practice. They later returned to Sydney where his father took up medical practice in Maroubra, at 695 Anzac Parade, which also became the family’s residence.

Bryan began his schooling at the Brigidine Convent at Maroubra in 1924 and remained there until 1926. In 1927 he moved to the Christian Brothers’ College, Waverley. In 1928 he and his brother, David, were sent to boarding school for one year at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Bowral. He returned to Waverley where he completed his schooling in 1936. At Waverley he excelled academically and at sport; he was dux of his class every year until his leaving certificate year, when he matriculated with an Exhibition to the University of Sydney. He was awarded His Excellency Most Rev Dr Kelly’s medal for religious knowledge. He was College Captain, Head Prefect, College Athletic Champion, winner of the sprint championship for catholic schools, the Cardinal’s Cup, in 1936, and winner of the 440 yards championship, under 18, in the Schoolboy Championships of the State, conducted by the Amateur Athletic Association. He played on the wing in the College First XV.

He continued his athletic career while at Sydney University, was the Australian Universities 440 yards champion, a University blue, and was chosen to compete against New Zealand Universities for the Combined Australian Universities. It was while touring New Zealand with this team in 1940 that he met his future wife, the then eighteen year old Marie Jean Renouf, when he was billeted with her family in Wellington. He graduated MBBS from the University of Sydney in 1942 with Second Class Honours. From 1943 to 1944 he was a Resident Medical Officer at St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst, serving as the Deputy Medical Superintendent in 1944. Towards the end of World War II (from 1944) he served as a Captain in the Australian Army until discharged in 1947. On the 10th May 1947 he married Marie Renouf at the Basilica in Wellington. Bryan and Marie had eight children, all boys, born between 1948 and 1960.

In 1947 he was appointed Supervisor of Student Studies at St Vincent’s Hospital Medical School, and admitted to Membership of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. In 1949-50, he undertook postgraduate studies in general medicine and pediatrics in the United Kingdom where he obtained the Diploma of Child Health (RCP&S), and was admitted to Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (London). He published “The investigation of Thyroid Function by Radioiodine Studies” in 1950.

In 1952 he was appointed Assistant Physician St Vincent’s Hospital, Lewisham Hospital, and St Margaret’s Hospital for Women, Sydney, Consulting Physician (Emeritus) to each of these Hospitals, and Physician to Mt St Margaret Psychiatric Hospital, Sydney.

He was elected Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 1960. He served from 1970 to 1979 as Consulting Physician Second Military District Australian Army, and from 1974 to 1975 as Master of Medical Guild of St Luke (NSW). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1975, and appointed Oceania representative with Dr John Bergin of New Zealand on the Council of the International Federation of Catholic Doctors in 1984. In 1986 he was appointed Consultor to Pontifical Council for Health Workers, and in 1992 was honoured with a Papal decoration of Knight Commander of Saint Gregory the Great.

Bryan’s quiet, charming manner and his undying patience earned him a reputation as a great teacher and mentor. He was popular with students and unruffled by their seeming lack of knowledge. As a general physician (now so rare) his advice was sought by many including the many nurses and religious who frequented his practice in Macquarie Street. He had a large practice in general medicine. Gestational diabetes, diabetes and cardiology were his main interests together with endocrinology and thyroid disease. He had an early interest in paediatrics but was unable to fulfil an ambition to practice in this area of medicine.

Bryan was a handsome man standing 6 feet tall. He had natural athletic ability and was both a sportsman and scholar. Two of his eight sons represented Australia in rowing at the Olympics in 1972 and at world championship rowing events. All were sportsmen.

Bryan had many close friends both within medicine and in the business world but his main interest was always his large and extended family. He did not play sport after University. He occupied himself in his beautiful garden at Woolwich Road in Hunters Hill where he took his family in 1956. Almost all his children and his wife still live around the Lane Cove River which became so much of their life.

He served for many years on the board of the Medical Benevolent Society, retiring only in his late seventies. He was a revered consultant to his juniors and always gave good, well reasoned advice in both medical and ethical matters. He was a committed Catholic and lived his life as an example to others.

Bryan died on April 30th 2004. He had endured some three years of failing health with amazing strength and faith. He believed in the power of prayer and prayed regularly, never missing his Sunday obligations. He was adored by his wife of 57 years and much admired by his eight sons, their wives and his 27 grandchildren.

A Curtin

[Reproduced, with permission, from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ College Roll]

(Volume XII, page web)

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