Lives of the fellows

Bernard George Clarke

b.11 February 1935 d.25 February 2012
MB BS Melbourne(1958) MRACP(1962) FRACP(1972) FCCP(1976) FRCP(1985)

Bernard George Clarke was a pioneer of intensive care treatment for hospital patients in Melbourne, Australia. Born in Mordialloc, a suburb of Melbourne, he was the fifth child of James Clarke, a police sergeant, and his wife, Monica Ann. The family were staunch Roman Catholics and he was initially educated by the Brigidine Sisters until he was admitted on a scholarship, at the early age of 11, to St Kevin’s College, Toorak, run by the Christian Brothers. After studying medicine at Melbourne University and St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, he qualified in 1958.

From 1959 to 1964, he did house jobs at St Vincent’s combining this with some general practice in the Dandenong district of Melbourne and acting as a consultant physician at the Dandenong and District Hospital. In 1965 he travelled to the UK and worked as a registrar at the Postgraduate Medical School in Hammersmith, London. Based in the respiratory medical unit , he trained with Edward James Moran Campbell [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.95] and Charles Montague Fletcher [Munk’s Roll, Vol.X, p.146]. Two years later, he moved to the USA and trained with Professor G M Bedell and Professor William B Bean as an assistant professor at the University of Iowa department of internal medicine, specialising in respiratory and intensive care medicine.

On his return to Australia in 1968, he had to undergo extensive surgery for renal cancer. This experience was said to have given him a much greater empathy with his patients and a greater respect for the skills and care of his professional colleagues. He returned to St Vincent’s in 1968 and began to work his way up the professional ladder, meanwhile introducing some of the specialist skills he had learnt in the States.

In 1970 he was appointed a consultant physician at the Box Hill Hospital and, two years later, at the Mercy Maternity Hospital. Five year later, in 1975, he became director of intensive care at St Vincent’s as well as retaining his other consultancies and becoming physician to the intensive care unit at the Mercy. At St Vincent’s he also became senior physician to medical in-patients in 1982 and he took on the role of co-ordinator of the emergency medical services for the State of Victoria in 1984. In this position he founded the State Critical Care Service, which found emergency and intensive care beds for desperately ill patients, including their retrieval from regional centres. Although he retired in 2000, he continued to do locum and medico-legal work until, he decided, that he ‘was often the sickest person in town.’

Always active in the community and on behalf of his Church, he helped the Sisters of Charity in their hospital developments and served on the school council of Genezzano College. At various times he also worked for the Victorian section of the Australian Medical Association, the Medical Board of Victoria and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. A member of the Ancient Order of Foresters, he was largely responsible for instigating an annual Lourdes Day Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral for those too sick to travel.

Outside medicine, he enjoyed golf, tennis and sailing.

In 1961 he married Cecilia Mary and she survived him when he died of ischaemic heart disease while shopping in Mornington aged 77. He was also survived by their 10 children Moira, Paul, Anita, Matthew, Jennifer, Fionna, David, Robert, Stephen and Sarah and 20 grandchildren. Their son Thomas predeceased him.

RCP editor

[The Sydney Morning Herald www.smh.com.au/comment/obituaries/provided-true-intensive-care-for-all-20120322-1vmnc.html - accessed 31 October 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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