Lives of the fellows

Geoffrey Lance McDonald

b.15 September 1920 d.24 June 2008
BA Sydney(1941) MB BS(1945) MRACP(1948) FRACP(1960) FRCP(1968) FRCPS Glasgow(1978) FACP(1979)

Geoffrey Lance McDonald was an outstanding general physician in Sydney and, like his father before him, a former president of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. He was born in Sydney, New South Wales, the eldest of the five children of Sir Charles George McDonald (‘C G’), a distinguished physician specialising in thoracic disease, and Elsie Isabel née Hosie, the daughter of a bank official. Geoffrey was educated at Waverley College, before taking his leaving certificate at Riverview College, where he was dux in 1937. At the University of Sydney he lived in St John’s College and took at BA in classics before going into medicine. He qualified in 1945.

He was an honorary assistant physician at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, from 1950 to 1962, and an honorary physician from 1962. At the University of Sydney he was tutor in medicine, clinical lecturer, supervisor of clinical studies at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and warden of the clinical studies school. He was well known for his academic accomplishments and for his dedication to the teaching of young house officers. He was a member of the council of the Australian National University at Canberra from 1966 to 1974.

He had a long and distinguished career at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, beginning in 1956 as assistant to the honorary secretary and culminating in his presidency from 1978 to 1980. In 1988 he edited Roll of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (Sydney, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians), which includes biographies of the fellows of the College who had died between its foundation and 1975.

He was renowned for his rigorous, analytical thinking, his high ethical standards and his extremely methodical habits. He was noted for his bedside manner and believed, in later years, that medicine had become over-specialised. He enjoyed being a consultant rather than a micro-manager, looking at the whole patient to work out what was wrong. He drew inspiration from his father, particularly his recommendation that doctors focus on listening to their patients.

He married Marcella Nolan in 1946, when they were both residents at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and they had three sons (Charles, Tim and Geoff) and two daughters (Helen and Anne). Four of their five children went into medicine, the other into social work/psychotherapy. When Marcella developed Alzheimer’s disease in the mid-1990s, Geoffrey cared for her until she needed institutional care. For many years he was affected by deteriorating health, particularly osteoporosis, which limited his mobility. He died in Sydney.

[RACP News August/September 2008, p.24; Sydney Morning Herald 25 October 2008]

(Volume XII, page web)

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