Richard Taunton Southwood
9 April 1932 - 11 April 2013
Flinders Medical Centre lost a link with its origins with the passing of Dick Southwood. He joined the hospital a month before it opened in April 1976 and established the orthopaedic department, the trauma service and helped develop the accident and emergency service. He was appointed full-time Director in Orthopaedic and Accident Surgery in 1978.
His father A.R. Southwood was a consultant physician with a special interest in public health and was known as "Happy Jack". Dick certainly inherited a good nature and sense of humour. He was educated at Prince Alfred College and studied medicine at Adelaide University, graduating in 1955. He worked as a registrar in Russell Barbour's unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and in the early 1960s spent two years in England doing postgraduate training in surgery in the Warwick and Stratford group of hospitals. He also worked in Exeter with Norman Capener who pioneered the trochanteric nail plate for hip fractures.
On returning to Adelaide he became an honorary consultant at the Adelaide Children's Hospital and was also an inaugural consultant on the Spinal Injuries Unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. While in this unit he helped with the Australian Paraplegic Games.
He married Debbie Mitchell and they had five children. In later years he married Dalia.
The major portion of his practising career was spent at Flinders Medical Centre. He started there when it opened and remained its director for more than 17 years. He spent some time in Kota Bharu, Malaysia during the establishment of the medical schoolat Universiti Sains Malaysia School of Medical Science, developing the medical curriculum.
His clinical interests were teaching, paediatric orthopaedics, spinal surgery and hand surgery. Teaching was a passion and after retirement he continued to tutor students for the rest of his life. The advice was clear and practical, making sure the principles were understood. Regular clinical meetings under his direction were relaxed and open, encouraging everyone to contribute. A tense exchange would be rapidly dissolved by Dick with a witty remark that would have us all chortling! He undertook a major experimental study of infection in hip arthroplasty, which demonstrated how less than 50 bacteria could result in infection.
As state president of the Australian Medical Association in 1983-4 he actively campaigned for patients' wellbeing, at one time leading a protest on the steps of parliament house. He chaired the SA branch of the Australian Orthopaedic Association from 1978-80.
Dick displayed a remarkable amount of energy directed at tennis, cycling, windsurfing and boating. After major heart surgery he continued to cycle to work. He had a passion for sailing and had a series of ocean going yachts which were well used. He continued to love "messing about in boats" long after his failing cardiac output would have kept many others confined.
He survived two major cardiac valve operations, the last in 2011. This year he developed a major leg infection from an abrasion which had occurred while sailing. Although he was recovering from this, he died of recurrent cardio-pulmonary illness on 11 April 2013. He is remembered for his skilled surgery, devotion to teaching and a wonderful sense of humour!
Obituary provided by Peter Tamblyn and Tom Stevenson.