James Russell Fergusson Downie MBBS FRACS FRCS
1932 - 2017
James Russell Fergusson Downie (Jim) was born on 5 November, 1932 to George and Gertrude Downie at St Georges Hospital, Kew. He spent his childhood in Auburn attending school firstly at Auburn South Primary School, then Gardenvale, the Melbourne High School where he matriculated with distinction. This led to his study of medicine at the University of Melbourne. He is remembered as being a very high achiever there.
In 1956 he married Betty Ashton and in 1961, Jim gained his Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. He then travelled to England with Betty and young son Paul, working as ship's doctor to enable him to undertake further studies and qualify for admission to the Royal College of Surgeons of England. On return to Australia, Jim began his work at the Austin and for a time also at Prince Henry's and Repatriation Hospitals and a second son, Peter was born.
Twice in the 60's, Jim undertook three month tours of Vietnam as part of the volunteer surgical teams who treated the civilian population.
The major part of Jim's professional life was at the Austin Hospital where he served as chair of the Senior Medical Staff and Acting head of Surgery on a number of occasions. When the Committee of Executives was created Jim was appointed Chairman of that Committee. Jim was regarded very highly because of his excellent surgical skills and his clinical judgement. Besides being a good surgical teacher he was renowned for his support of younger surgeons. He earned a great deal of respect for keeping up to date with current literature which he drew upon in weekly audit meetings. He developed an interest in bariatric surgery when it was in its infancy initially using gastric stapling and for a short time jejuno-ileal bypass. In his private practice he carried out a considerable amount of medico-legal work.
Betty's health deteriorated in 1980 and she died in 1982. Jim subsequently married Judith Fogarty who died in 1992. In 1993 Jim met Eril Deighton who became his partner until his death.
Those who knew Jim well said he was a frustrated architect. He was intensely interested in design and building and participated in the construction of various houses and a medical centre including a special cubby house for his eldest grandchild. This was an example of his devotion and pride in his family.
He valued education very highly and was a generous donor to institutions he credited with helping him to achieve his professional success, Melbourne High School, the University of Melbourne and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. In turn he supported his sons and grandchildren to further their education.
Jim read widely and maintained his teaching role in retirement by lecturing on Medical History and Genetics at the Yarra U3A. Jim was an enthusiastic traveller and he and Eril travelled extensively until his health deteriorated in 2015.
Jim is survived by Eril, his sons Paul and Peter and 5 grandchildren.
This obituary was kindly provided by Mr Peter Downie.