Philip John Walker
8 December 1957 - 31 December 2014
Professor Philip Walker was a renowned surgeon, academic and researcher who made a tremendous contribution to the School of Medicine at the University of Queensland (UQ) and leaves a great legacy. He was intensely proud of his surgical profession and his role as head of Academic Discipline of Surgery. Born Philip John Walker he was one of eight children of Nancy and Keith Walker, a well-known surgeon in Newcastle.
In 1975, Phil was dux of St Joseph's College, Hunter's Hill in Sydney. He was also awarded the college's prestigious prize for all round excellence. The headmaster identified him as an outstanding student of exceptional talent, someone who was bound for great things. Over the years these observations were more than realised. Phil graduated from the University of Sydney medical school; completed his training in general surgery and vascular surgery at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and a Fellowship at Stanford University Hospital, California.
While at Stanford he was involved in the early development and clinical application of aortic stent graft technology, endovascular techniques for the management of complicated aortic dissection and spiral CT angiography. Prof Walker joined UQ's Department of Surgery and Department of Vascular Surgery at Royal Brisbane Hospital in 1992 and was appointed head of discipline in 2011.
He was a passionate advocate for academic surgery, widely regarded as an exceptional clinician and surgeon, an excellent teacher, mentor and an outstanding researcher. He was responsible for the introduction of aortic stent grafting technology at RBH and founded its non-invasive vascular ultrasound diagnostic laboratory in 1995.
Prof Walker was a pioneer in minimally invasive surgery in Queensland. His work centred on the causes and management of aortic aneurysms and on providing non-invasive diagnostic imaging for patients with vascular disease. He was considered an expert in inserting stents into patients with disease of the aorta, the body's largest blood vessel. He was director of the vascular laboratory at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, where he chaired the vascular surgery department. He also worked at Prince Charles Hospital.
The respected surgeon was an incoming senior examiner in vascular surgery for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, a past secretary-treasurer of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Vascular Surgery and chairman of the vascular ultrasound committee at the Australian and New Zealand Society of Vascular Surgeons.
He was a chief investigator and member of a National Health and Medical Research Council executive committee to improve the management of arterial disease - hardening and narrowing of the arteries. He had a rare gift for relating to the most junior student or world-renowned academic surgeon with the same calm, considered and personal touch. He could "cut to the chase" and foresee all of the implications of decisions under consideration.
When approached by a keen but inexperienced student, Prof Walker listened intently, thought deeply and replied quickly with a detailed plan. He always followed through and never let anyone down. These traits were equally mirrored in his family and social life. Prof Walker's personal qualities were extraordinary. He was a wonderful friend to many people. His constitution was one that naturally cultivated strong friendships.
Warmth and generosity; intelligence and understanding: wise counsel; loyalty and courage; and, of course, remarkable humility, and self-deprecating humour were his hallmarks. He was an engaging conversationalist and a gracious and generous host, loving to entertain friends with his cooking and always with a glass of champagne at the ready.
He travelled extensively, often with or to visit family overseas, to contribute at conferences and, notably to Africa, where he developed strong ties after pursuing an elective in medical school. Through this he explored his love of photography and was intensely proud of the many albums he produced for his fellow travellers. He loved indigenous and Australian art and had an eclectic taste in music, with a playlist collection that ran into the thousands. He also was a sports fanatic following cricket and rugby around the world. Of course, he never mentioned his own sporting brilliance as opening batsman for his beloved St Joseph's College First XI or half back for the First XV.
Above all, Prof Walker's incredible kindness, fairness and ability to connect with those his path crossed was his essence. He had a willingness to give of himself and left those who knew him feeling privileged to have done so. He enriched the world through the way he embraced and lived his life. It was inspiring to witness the positive mindset and resilience with which he took on the challenge of his prostate cancer disease. He developed a plan.
He remained interested and focused on others to the end. Prof Walker was married but separated and had no children. He is survived by his mother Nancy; sibling's Gai, Cathryn, Laurie, John, Beth, Fiona and Damien and their families. His father predeceased him.
Professor Daryl Crawford
Dean of Medicine
University of Queensland