Lives of the fellows

Alan Edward Davis

b.26 January 1933 d.27 January 2017
MB BS Sydney(1955) BSc MA Oxon MD Sydney(1967) FRCP(1978) FRACP

Alan Edward Davis was a consultant physician in Sydney, Australia. He was born in Wollongong, New South Wales, the son of Lucy and Edward Parker Davis. He studied medicine at Sydney University, graduating in 1955 and was awarded a Rhodes scholarship for academic and sporting excellence in 1956, which took him to Oxford, England. During his time at Oxford he attained a master of arts and a bachelor of science. He subsequently undertook postgraduate training at the Radcliffe Infirmary, the Postgraduate Medical School of London and at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. He later gained an MD from Sydney University in 1967 and became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

Alan was always a very active sportsman. In his childhood, he was a keen surf lifesaver. During his time at Wesley College, Sydney University he was in the winning eight of the 1955 intercollegiate regatta and was subsequently selected for the university eight. He later rowed for New College, Oxford, while also playing rugby. In later years, sailing became his passion and he regularly competed in racing championships in Sydney Harbour. He also enjoyed hiking in the Blue Mountains with his children.

Alan met his wife-to-be, Jean (née Ross), in 1954 while he was a medical student at King George V Memorial Hospital, Sydney. Jean was a midwife and nursing sister. They married in England in 1959 and their first daughter, Nicola, was born in Birmingham.

In 1961 they returned to Australia and Alan took up a staff specialist position at the Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney. At that time, the field of gastroenterology was only newly formed. This was a particularly exciting period in the history of this new specialty. While the principles of research had been laid down earlier, the 1950s and 1960s saw a major expansion in new techniques for the sampling of tissues and body fluids. New pathways of enzymatic activity were being discovered at an amazing rate that led to a host of new therapeutic approaches. Alan’s primary research focus was iron absorption. He also performed early studies into intestinal disaccharidase deficiency and did some of the pivotal initial studies in pancreatic function. He later moved to the Prince of Wales Hospital, where he ran a research laboratory in addition to continuing a clinical practice and teaching.

Alan was an associate professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of New South Wales for many years. He was a greatly admired teacher of medical students and junior doctors, and co-authored a leading textbook on physical diagnosis in medicine (Symptom analysis and physical diagnosis in medicine Rushcutters Bay, Oxford, Pergamon Press, 1977). He chaired grand rounds at the Prince of Wales Hospital for many years, stimulating discussion and learning and inspiring both his peers and junior colleagues alike.

Alan and Jean were married for 57 years, ending in Jean’s death in 2011. They had three more children, Ross, Alison and Kerry after returning to Australia. They had a close and loving relationship with all their children as well as their eight grandchildren.

In retirement, Alan continued to examine for the Australian Medical Council for a number of years. He remained an avid reader throughout his life and retained a sense of enquiry at all times.

Alan passed away unexpectedly in January 2017. He is dearly missed by his family, friends and colleagues alike.

Kerry Davis

(Volume XII, page web)

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