Richard Anthony McArthur
5 December 1938 - 26 September 2013
Richard McArthur was born and raised in Ballarat and attended St Patrick's College. He studied medicine at Melbourne University and was a resident in Newman College. He was an HMO at St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne for two years before he went to Hartford, Connecticut to train in orthopaedics. Pathology was a big part of the training there, and forever after pathology was a very important part of Richard's practice which he instilled into all the Registrars who worked with him.
After finishing his basic training he spent a year at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto in Bob Salter's unit and later six months with John Charnley in Wrightington. These rotations overseas were interspersed with periods of time in Ballarat and also five years on the staff of the Austin Hospital from 1970 to 1975. He then moved to Geelong and was a VMO at The Geelong Hospital from 1975 to 2001.
When he arrived in Geelong there was comparatively little orthopaedics performed at Holy Cross Hospital (now St John of God) and Richard established it as a significant orthopaedic centre. This initially required Richard providing his own instruments. For many years almost all the orthopaedic surgery performed in private in Geelong relied on Richard McArthur's generosity in freely lending his instruments to other orthopaedic surgeons. At The Geelong Hospital he was passionate about converting the group of orthopaedic surgeons into a functioning unit with appropriate infrastructure. He was responsible for creating the Geelong Orthopaedic Society which recently had its 27th annual meeting, each one enriched by an expert outside visitor. He insisted that any approach to the hospital administration asking for change could be justified by, and should be argued on, the grounds of improving patient care.
He practised a mixture of a conservative and avant-garde surgery. He was one of the first surgeons to take up ceramic on ceramic total hip replacements and yet also continued to use the Charnley prosthesis. He wrote the first paper on using the Herbert screw to internally fix fractures of the head of the radius which was published inClinical Orthopaedics. In Wrightington he designed and made some instruments that he continued to use until his retirement. He also designed a small number of other devices later in his life and his double quiver is still in regular use in The Geelong Hospital theatres.
He developed an outstanding knowledge of the orthopaedic literature and remained an exceptionally well read orthopaedic surgeon for the whole of his practising life. He has a great affection for books and libraries. He had an extensive orthopaedic library which he donated to Timor-Leste and the Geelong Orthopaedic Unit. As a member of the AMA he was very disappointed when its historic library, with roots dating back to the Port Phillip Medical Association, was not being maintained.
Richard had a love of aphorisms which he would produce at appropriate times revealing a lot about his approach to life. They included 'better is the enemy of good', 'if you put your hand to the plough you must finish the furrow', 'a scalded cat fears even cold water', 'it's easier to put a word in the king's ear than it is to take it out again', 'no one understands how finely tuned an ecological system is a medical practice.' My favourite was 'smother them with kindness' when things went wrong.
Outside medicine Richard was a very keen member of the Liberal party and was known to spend all election day handing out how to vote cards in Corio, a safe Labor seat, because no one else would do it. He was instrumental in helping the Newcomb & District Sports Club to prosper and was at one time its President. He also helped to get the Splashdown Aquatic Centre built. They remain major public amenities in one of the poorer parts of Geelong. He was a very enthusiastic golfer and a long-time member of the Barwon Heads Golf Club. After his retirement his greatest interests included golf, classical music and visiting his wide spread family.
Having never smoked he died of metastatic carcinoma of the lung six weeks after diagnosis. He said just before he died how much his strong Christian faith helped him to deal with his final illness. He is survived by his wife Aase, a biochemist by training who he met in the USA and who ran his practice for many years, five children and seven grandchildren.
Obituary provided by David Bainbridge FRACS.