Lives of the fellows

Maxwell Duers James Robertson

b.14 December 1934 d.25 May 2010
MB ChB Otago MRCP FRACP FRCP(1981)

Dr Max Robertson was the son of Frank and Annie Robertson and was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1934. He attended Otago Boy’s High School. He graduated in medicine from Otago University in 1958 and then he worked at Palmerston North Hospital during his house surgeon and early registrar years, spending 2 years training in medicine and pathology. It was during this time that he met and married Jeanette (née Slater) who was a nurse working at the same hospital. In 1964, following the birth of their first child, Max travelled with his family to London for a period of advanced physician training. They travelled by ship and Max was given the position of ship’s surgeon which involved at least one surgical exploit, fashioning flaps for a sailor who had amputated his finger tips in a winch accident. Max rose to the challenge and the patient reportedly did well.

He obtained his MRCP (London) in 1966 after completing the physician’s course at the Hammersmith hospital followed by registrar posts at St Mary Abbott’s and Westminster Hospitals. During this period he trained with Professor Dudley Hart, a leading rheumatologist, who may have been responsible for igniting Max’s interest in this new branch of medicine. In 1968 he returned to Middlemore Hospital, Auckland to take up a consultant physician post as ‘Tutor Specialist’ practising general medicine and rheumatology. His interests were wide-ranging and, for example, he was involved in drawing up plans for the first coronary care unit (CCU) at Middlemore Hospital which opened in 1974. He continued to act as one of the physicians running the CCU for many years, managing patients and when necessary inserting pacing wires. He published case histories and reviews across a wide spectrum of medicine including a description of rheumatoid lymphadenopathy (Annals of Rheumatic Diseases 1968; 27(3):253-60).

Max’s hobbies included handyman activities and gardening and he was devoted to his family. He and Jeanette had four children, Marcus, Sally, Jane and Alistair who now live in New Zealand and Australia. Max was a well-loved and highly-respected physician who continued to work as a rheumatologist and general physician for over 30 years at Middlemore Hospital in South Auckland. He was renowned as being extremely dedicated to his patients and the thoroughness with which he conducted his ward rounds (reflected by their length) was legendary amongst junior staff. He is also remembered for the support he provided to all his colleagues and his excellence as a teacher, whether in the context of ward rounds or journal clubs. It is fitting that he received the Denis Pickup Clinical teacher award in acknowledgement of this. He was always available after hours and despite onerous on-call duties, especially during his early years at Middlemore Hospital, he never failed to be available for any emergency. He died of gastric carcinoma after an illness of several months and is survived by his wife and four children.

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

(Volume XII, page web)

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