27 March 1927 - 27 February 2013
Marius was born in Romania in 1927 and graduated from the University of Bucharest in 1951. In 1953 he received his MD and went on to specialist training in orthopaedics. In 1955 at the height of the communist upheaval he was forced to flee Romania and sought refuge in France. He completed his training in hand surgery and obtained the postgraduate Diploma of Hand Surgery working at the Nanterre Hospital in Paris. He was greatly influenced by Marc Iselin, who had pioneered the specialty in France.
In 1963 Marius immigrated to Australia and was appointed Lecturer at the School of Anatomy at the University of Queensland. I have it on good authority that at his interview, Michael Hickey, then Professor of Anatomy and a respected classical scholar in his own right, conducted the interview in some Latin and a little Italian … for this was the only means of communicating with the candidate who spoke little or no English. However, he had no difficulty with French or German, although Romanian, he would always say, wasnotan exceedingly useful language in which to conduct a job interview!
Those early years in Queensland were difficult for Marius, yet with his usual enthusiasm and dedication, he quickly overcame his problem with English, so that by the time I knew him, as a second year medical student in the mid-sixties, he could deliver a fifty-minute lecture without difficulty or apprehension. His lectures were always well received by students who very much appreciated being taught by someone who knew his way around the body as a practising surgeon. His method of teaching anatomy was appreciated by all who attended his tutorials as he strongly emphasised a regional approach using succinct, clinically-relevant facts, clearly described and demonstrated by dissection. His illustrations using coloured chalk and a blackboard were a highlight in the dissecting room.
In 1967 Marius re-qualified when he obtained his MB, BS by examination from the University of Queensland and was registered to practise by the Queensland Medical Board in the same year. He achieved this by studying and working during University term breaks as an RMO in various country hospitals. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1985.
Whilst in France Marius developed a very close friendship with Raoul Tubiana at the Institute of Hand Surgery in Paris affiliated to the University Department of Orthopaedics at the Hôpital Cochin. His unique expertise as a professional anatomist and surgeon was much admired and his research output during those times was prolific.
He established important networks with such greats in his speciality as Professors Verdan, Tubiana, Lisfranc, Rabischong and other members of the famed French "Group d'Etudes de la Main" (also known as the GEM club) as well as international lights such as Erik Moberg from Sweden, Graham Stack in the UK, Kaplan, Little and Flatt in the US, Zancolli from Argentina not to mention John Hueston, Bernie O'Brien and Wayne Morrison in Melbourne.
In 1969 Marius Fahrer was promoted to Senior Lecturer in Anatomy at the University of Queensland. In both 1975 and 1980 the University of Paris invited him as visiting Professor of Anatomy. It was during this period that he worked tirelessly to translate, revise, edit and contribute additional original material to the English edition of Raoul Tubiana's seminal treatise "Traité de Chirurgie de la Main". Today this remains an authoritative reference for surgery of the hand and upper limb and a testimony to Fahrer's scholarship.
Throughout the 1980s, Marius Fahrer ran postgraduate tutorials and supervised dissecting classes for Primary Surgery Fellowship candidates in Brisbane. He also gave special tuition for those preparing for examinations in Orthopaedics and Plastic surgery and was always available to organise specimens for College Viva Vocé examinations whenever they were held in Brisbane. This was in addition to teaching undergraduate students in medicine and physiotherapy and always in tune with his philosophy that anatomy is central to the study of surgery and the training of surgeons
Marius always welcomed new challenges. In 1984 he retired from Queensland University and moved to Melbourne to take up the post of Director and Senior Specialist in charge of the Central Development Unit for Prostheses and Orthoses in the Department of Veterans' Affairs based at the Heidelberg Hospital campus, a position that he held until his second retirement in 1994.
Love of teaching has been central to Marius Fahrer's long and distinguished career. Together with Dr Norm Eizenberg at the University of Melbourne, Marius was a leading player in promoting the very successful conjoint College and Melbourne University (Private) Postgraduate Diploma of Surgical Anatomy and played an active role in the day-to-day supervision, teaching and examination of candidates in the dissection programme. In 2010 Marius received a meritorious service award from the University of Melbourne for his "outstanding contribution to the Postgraduate Diploma in Surgical Anatomy".
Marius Fahrer was always actively involved in research - the depth of his knowledge of European history and languages was invaluable in his work as the curator of the priceless Cowlishaw Collection of over 3,000 books housed in the College and he was a regular contributor to the Cowlishaw Symposium, for both of which he received the Kenneth Russell Memorial Medal in 2008.
Marius was first and foremost a respected clinician. He taught a generation of medical students and acted as mentor and supervisor to numerous surgical trainees. He gave freely of his time to the College. He was much respected by his peers both in Australia and abroad and he dedicated his professional life to preserving the fundamental essence of sound surgical training. It was for this and for his scholarship in the anatomical sciences that the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons awarded Marius the distinguished ESR Hughes medal at its 2006 Annual Scientific Congress in Sydney.
This award was richly deserved and humbly accepted, and like Cyrano de Bergerac in Rostand's play it was accepted "sans un pli, sans une tache, j'emporte malgré vous, … (avec) panache".
Marius Fahrer once described himself as "one of the few surviving specimens of that now extinct species of surgeon-anatomists" - sadly, so few of whom are left today. He was a gracious, elegant man and a wonderful raconteur with great panache and he will be sorely missed.
Obituary provided by Pierre Chapuis, DS (Queensland), FRACS.