Malcolm Charles Douglas
General Surgeon
13 May 1938 - 9 November 2013

Malcolm Douglas, a much admired and highly respected senior surgeon at the Austin Hospital died at Warringal Private Hospital in November 2013 following a five-year illness with prostate cancer.

He was born in 1938 in Melbourne to Frederick and Mena Douglas. He was the second child, having an older sister Judy. He attended Ashburton State School, Camberwell High School and finished his secondary education at Melbourne High School.

He graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1961 having completed his undergraduate clinical years at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He was a Resident Medical Officer at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 1962 and 1963 and after a year as a tutor in the anatomy Department at Monash University moved to the Alfred Hospital as a surgical registrar in 1965.

From 1966 to 1968 he was a Research Fellow in the Monash University Department of Surgery under the leadership of Prof Hugh Dudley and he obtained his Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1967. It was here he developed his interest in the surgical treatment of liver disease and he was one of a team of surgeons who performed the first extra corporeal liver perfusion in Australia using a freshly harvested pig's liver. This was the world's first reported case of salvage of a patient in hepatic coma complicating liver failure.

Malcolm held a position as Surgeon at the Alfred Hospital between 1967 and 1969 and between 1968 and 1970 he was appointed Lecturer to the Monash University Department of Surgery spending some time also at Prince Henry's Hospital with Prof. Jim Watts who became a long standing friend.

His interest in liver disease at that time led him to become a Research Fellow at the University of Colorado Department of Surgery under Dr Ben Eiseman, a world authority on liver perfusion and hepatic surgery. It was here that he did research into prolonging the function of experimental liver grafts.

He then moved to the United Kingdom to work as a Research Fellow and Surgeon at the Sheffield University Department of Surgery from 1970 to 1972. Whilst living in a Hall of Residence of the University of Sheffield he met he is lifelong partner Maria Sola who was working in the Spanish Department of the University teaching languages.

Malcolm returned to Melbourne in 1972 as a General Surgeon and as First Assistant in the Department of Surgery. It was some years later that the title of Associate Professor was applied to this position. He was appointed Head of Professorial Surgical Unit "A" under Professor Howard Eddy, the Foundation Professor of Surgery at the Austin. This was the start of a 36 year illustrious career at the Austin until the time of his retirement in 2008. Towards the end of his career, Malcolm continued to use his skills and experience in administrative positions further contributing to many areas of surgery within Austin Health.

His surgical skills and abilities were legendary, being widely admired and highly regarded by all with whom he worked from the most junior trainee to all his senior colleagues both within the hospital and beyond, nationally and internationally. He was an innovator and excellent teacher and marvellous mentor. He had a vast surgical repertoire and would tackle the most extraordinarily difficult surgical challenges and achieve, throughout the whole of his practising life, outstanding results. He was caring, compassionate and provided all encompassing and comprehensive care to his patients. With his keen intellect, an encyclopaedic knowledge of surgery and surgical history, he was a wonderful colleague to have, often solving very difficult clinical problems that others had not been able to.

He loved teaching and taught nurses, undergraduate medical students and a large number of postgraduate surgical trainees over his long career. Not only did he teach in a formal sense, by way of lectures and tutorials, but particularly by his example. The way he interacted with patients with care and compassion, instilled in them great confidence. He demonstrated and taught superb surgical technique and went out of his way to help young surgeons develop their skills and their careers. With his enormous knowledge and enquiring mind he stimulated and challenged those he taught to produce their best at all times.

From the time he was appointed Head of General surgical Unit 3 at the Austin Hospital in 1982 he continued to develop his interests in upper G/I and Endocrine surgery. In 1996, at the time of further reorganisation of the surgical units at the Austin, he was appointed head of Upper G/ I and Endocrine Surgery a position he held until stepping down from active surgical practice in 2008.

All members of his unit were devoted to him. He and Maria warmly welcomed the team and their families to their home and Malcolm built up a wonderful sense of collegiality. One of his many legacies was the foresight he showed with the succession planning for his own unit. He identified young surgeons with ability and range of skills that would enhance the ability of his unit to perform at the highest level. In these days of super sub specialisation Malcolm was a true General surgeon. He published widely, belonged to many professional organisations and learned societies and gave many invited lectures and oral presentations at international and national meetings.

He had a wide range of interests outside of surgery. While a student he attained the elite Black Belt level in judo and competed in a number of intervarsity judo events being awarded a University Blue in that sport. He loved the outdoors and in his younger days embarked on some adventurous outback expeditions camping in some remarkably isolated areas with his friends. He, Maria and the family did a lot of bushwalking and camping together and he particularly loved the high country in Victoria He was an accomplished skier and helped establish the Nindethana ski lodge at Mount Hotham. Classical music, opera and the cinema were passionate interests. He and the family strongly supported the Arts and were much appreciated patrons of many organizations. He was able to enjoy his love of music, still attending concerts until just before his last admission to hospital.

The courageous and dignified way in which he accepted and coped with his illness over the last five years of his life was a remarkable example to everyone who knew him.

He is survived by his wife Maria, son Marc, a musician, and daughter Larissa who is completing her post graduate ICU specialist training.

Obituary kindly provided by Andrew Roberts and Robin Hooper