Lives of the fellows

John Donal McCreanor

b.31 December 1922 d.14 October 2013
MB ChB NZ (1947) MRCP(1954) MRACP(1955) FRACP(1965) FRCP(1981)

John McCreanor (always known as Jack) was born in Christchurch, the son of John (a general store keeper) and Ethel (a milliner). Jack’s father died when he was 15 and his elder sister Peggy died from tuberculosis while Jack was still at school. He went to Christ’s College before proceeding in 1941 to Dunedin for medical studies. It was there that he met Helen Young, also a medical student, and they were married in 1949.

Jack and Helen were both house surgeons at Wellington Hospital 1948/49 and their first child John was born in 1950. Jack worked as a locum GP in 1950 before the family sailed to the UK. He was locum house physician at Whipps Cross Hospital and then did the postgraduate course in medicine at Hammersmith Hospital in 1951. For six months in 1952 he was house physician to Professor Russell Fraser at Hammersmith Hospital before taking the position of medical registrar at West Norwich Hospital 1952-1954.

Jack, Helen and now two sons John and Tim returned to New Zealand where Jack was appointed medical registrar at Wellington Hospital. However all four members of the family were found to have pulmonary tuberculosis, Jack being the most severely affected. As a result he required a pneumonectomy and 12 months of sanatorium treatment. Eventually they all recovered to re-establish the family unit, initially in Naenae and later in Khandallah. Two daughters, Nicky and Charlotte, had joined the family by 1960.

When he first returned to the staff of Wellington Hospital Jack worked with pathologist Dave Reid before being appointed Medical Tutor and Staff Health Medical Officer at the Hospital in1957. For the next three years he was heavily involved with teaching in the School of Nursing. In 1959 he was appointed Deputy Superintendent-in-Chief, Wellington Hospital Board. This post allowed him to undertake 60% clinical work as a physician. He had nine inpatient beds and ran two outpatient clinics each week. In 1964 he assisted Verney Cable in establishing the hospital Renal Unit. In 1966, Jack relinquished his administrative duties at the hospital and was appointed Visiting Physician. He ran a private consulting practice in Wellington, which continued for some years after retiring from hospital practice in 1987.

Jack’s wife Helen, after raising a family of four children, returned to the Wellington Hospital staff in 1966 to establish the medical genetics unit. Sadly she died in 1979 and in her memory, Jack endowed funds to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians for the establishment of the Dr Helen Rarity McCreanor Travelling Fellowship, its purpose being to support postgraduate research and training in human genetics.

Jack and Helen had bought land in Martinborough and established a vineyard there. After Helen’s death, he threw himself into his work, travel, the vineyard, the arts and the new joys of grandparenthood. He kept himself physically active and volunteered for various projects including an AIDS clinic near the hospital, education courses for teen parents in Porirua, and at the Otari Gardens.

Jack is remembered as a caring physician who maintained high standards of practice throughout his career.

Nicky McCreanor

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

(Volume XII, page web)

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