Graeme Schofield portraitEmeritus Professor Graeme Calderwood Schofield

27 February, 1924 – 12 March, 2010

This obituary was written by Professor John Murtagh, Emeritus Professor of Community Medicine, Monash University in association with Graeme’s children (Peter, John and Jill).

Emeritus Professor Graeme Calderwood Schofield OBE, M.D. ChB (NZ), DPhil(Oxon), FRACP, FRACMA, FAMA, FVIFM; Founding Professor of Anatomy (1961- 1976) and Dean of Medicine (1977-1988) died in Melbourne on Friday March 12, 2010 at the age of 86. He was an eminent and respected pioneer who devoted his life to Medical Education, Research, and Administration.

Graeme was born in Nelson, New Zealand on Feb 27, 1924, to John Schofield and Alice Myrtle nee Masters, the fifth son of 6 children. For much of his youth, the family lived in Amberly, a small country town north of Christchurch, where his father was bank manager. Graeme attended Rangiora high school where he was captain of the school cricket team. As a medical student at Otago University, he contracted tuberculosis and, desperately ill, was the first in Dunedin to receive the then-new antibiotic streptomycin. After completing his medical degree, he contemplated a career as a surgeon and returned to the anatomy department at Otago University as a demonstrator. The appeal of research captivated him however, and he eagerly accepted the opportunity of two years at Oxford University (1955-57) where he was awarded a Nuffield Dominion Scholarship. At Oxford, Graeme modified an existing tissue staining technique that enabled him to conduct ground breaking research on the innervation of the gut, complete a D.Phil and, using this stain, collaborate with senior researchers at Oxford including the doyen of anatomists of the day, Le Gros Clark. On Graeme’s return to Dunedin as Senior Lecturer and then Associate Professor of Anatomy (1959-61), in collaboration with Professor Bill Adams, he wrote a text book of human anatomy, streamlining its teaching.

In 1961, Graeme was appointed Foundation Professor of Anatomy in the fledging Monash Medical School. He launched a department of such substance and energy that it set the tone for the medical course at Monash and underpinned the foundation of a great medical school. When the medical school building opened in 1963, medical students entered an anatomy department replete with a huge dissection room dominated by a great mural of Michelangelo’s David and a ‘Padua theatre’ devoted to the great ‘father of anatomy’- Vesalius. It was clear to all that the professor was a lover of the arts and medical history.

A charismatic and inspirational teacher whose unique, vivid lectures earned the complete attention of his students, Graeme’s presentations were an art form: eloquent, cultured, and laced with good humour. His lectures indeed transcended anatomy as he fostered generic skills of observation, good communication, and life in general. He cultivated the spirit of debate and scholarship. For many students anatomy was a glamorous department and the highlight of the basic science years.

Graeme developed an eclectic research program including such studies as cellular function, tissue culture, forensic anatomy, alcohol related disease, and gastrointestinal disease and function. He attracted research scholars from around the world to work with him at Monash and vice-versa. He was appointed Visiting Professor at Harvard University where, over many years, he conducted an intensive anatomy course and undertook collaborative research, much of it with Professor ‘Sus’ Ito, concerned with structure-functional relationships in the acid-secreting parietal cell.

Following a 12 year term as an outstanding head of department, Graeme was appointed Dean of Medicine in 1976. It was a period of great energy in which he showed leadership in the development of the faculty, the university and the wider community as he tackled health care services and reforms. He was involved in a proliferation of boards of governance and management, advisory committees and professional councils including the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Medical Council and the Committee of Deans of Australasian Medical Schools of which he was Chair. In 1981 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for service to medicine. Along with Professor Vernon Plueckhahn and John Phillips QC, Graeme was a prime mover between 1980 and 1985 in the establishment and development of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM). He ensured that Monash University was at the centre of the revival of forensic pathology, previously a Cinderella medical specialty, initiating the novel and pivotal inclusion of an Ethics Committee of which he was Chair from 1989-96, following his retirement.

Graeme was a member of Anatomical Societies of Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Ireland, a member of Council-Royal Society of Victoria, patron and life member of the University of Otago Medical Students Association and the Association of Monash Medical Graduates. Acknowledged as a colourful and inspiring educator, much loved and respected by his students, Graeme considered it a privilege to have worked with young people. He was a genuine friend to all: invariably good humoured, consistent, charming and with time to listen as he pondered the issue at hand with pipe in mouth. A good, kind, caring, and honourable person who gave much of himself, Graeme has left a mighty legacy which will live on in his students, their patients and the medical community at large.

In his private life, Graeme enjoyed swimming, cricket, rugby, tennis, golf, bricklaying, building, woodwork, music, art, reading, language, travel and people.

He was survived by his wife Barbara, to whom he was devoted and who supported him tirelessly throughout his long and productive career, three children and six grandchildren.
(Sadly, Barbara died on 28th August 2011.)

The Director, Stephen Cordner, adds: Graeme was Dean of the Medical Facility when I was appointed to the Chair of Forensic Medicine at Monash University. He had invested considerable effort and time in fashioning the link between Monash University and the Institute. He continued to nourish that link after my appointment and clearly had a great affection for the Institute. His role as the first Chair of our Ethics Committee helped establish values and attitudes which underpin what we do today. His background as an anatomist gave him a basis for engaging with the content of the work as well. His personal support through a number of tricky situations and the value of his experience and advice has left me very substantially in his debt.

Soon after his retirement, the VIFM Council named its meeting room the Schofield Room. His family have been kind enough to provide a substantial bequest which will be used to enable the VIFM to hold the Oration every two years.


The Schofield Bequest 

Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine

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