Thomas Joseph Claffey
25 January 1925 - 7 November 2014
Dr Thomas Joseph Claffey AM was born in Woollahra, Sydney on 25 January 1925. He began school at St Francis Paddington and was there for his primary school. He won a bursary to Waverley College and was there for 5 years. Tom's father originally came from Gympie and worked as a tram conductor. Without the bursary it would have been very difficult to complete high School.
Tom was a determined student and was eventually the Dux of the school in 1942. Tom of course went to Sydney University Medical School and graduated in 1948. He worked in General practice and at St Vincent's. During this time he met Patty O'Neill, a young stenographer and they were married on 26th May 1951. Tom went to Oxford for his Orthopaedic training to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre where he worked under Josep Trueta. He received the FRCS in 1955 and returned to Australia and St Vincents where he was appointed a Clinical Assistant in 1957. He received the FRACS in 1959. Tom became an Active Member (now Fellow) of the AOA in 1958.
Tom remained at St Vincents for his entire career working at both the Public and Private hospitals. He was the Director of Accident and Emergency at St Vincents which when he took on the role, was a 50% staff specialist role. He continued in that role until specialist emergency physicians had been trained and were appointed. There are now 6 full time staff specialists working in the department. Times have certainly changed.
Tom held many positions within the Orthopaedic Association. He was the Assistant Secretary in 1967 and then Honorary Secretary from 1968 to 1971. He was a Board member in 1972 and was appointed Censor in Chief (now Director of Training) from 1973 to 1977, having taken over from Peter Williams, the first Censor in Chief. At the same time he was a member of the Board of Orthopaedic Surgery for the College from 1969 to 1977. He was NSW State Chair in 1979 to 1980. He was elected to the Presidential role as President elect in 1982, President in 1983 and past President in 1984.
Tom's other great Orthopaedic passion was as consultant to the NSW Society for Crippled Children. Tom was honorary consultant to the Society for 28 years. He became involved when he was a consultant surgeon for a period at Canterbury Hospital. He would consult at both the Society's Cleaveland Hospital until it closed and then in the physiotherapy department of the Society's home. When the Society moved to the Western suburbs Tom was unable to continue as his commitments had increased at St Vincents. He was made a Life Member of the Society in 1988 in recognition of his long service.
As Tom was slowing down his practice, Tome lost his beloved wife Pat after quite a long illness. He cared for at home over many trying months. At the same time he lost his daughter, Margaret. After he finally retired he had a number of medical issues and moved into hostel care. With further deterioration he eventually needed full care for just over a year before his death. His final passing occurred quite quickly and Tom left us as an inpatient at St Vincents where he had spent most of his career.
Tom is survived by his son Michael and grandchildren, James, Elizabeth, Alexandra, Emily and Amy.
Obituary kindly provided by Mr Brett Courtenay FRACS