Andrew D’Arcy Sutherland AM FRACS
14 May 1943 - 20 March 2020
Andrew D’Arcy Sutherland was born in Adelaide in 1943. His father, D’Arcy, was an accomplished Cardiothoracic Surgeon who pioneered open-heart surgery in Australia and no doubt had strong influence on Andrew (as well as his other son Peter) to pursue a career in surgery and medical leadership. The most revealing example of this effect was Andrew’s own election to President of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) in 2007 – the first father/son combination with D’Arcy also President 29 years earlier.
Andrew grew up in Adelaide with his siblings Elizabeth and Peter. He excelled at St Peter’s College and whilst being offered the opportunity to stay on for an extra year in school leadership, he chose to enter university with the lure of a more liberal lifestyle and associated distractions. His desire to enjoy life while working hard was obviously cemented early in his career.
Following Medical School and some early years as a doctor, Andrew ventured to Canada for 5 years, then the UK, to complete his training in orthopaedic surgery. He returned to Australia and was readily employed at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Adelaide Children’s Hospital, where his advanced new skills were welcomed. He supported Sir Dennis Paterson and dedicated his clinical practice to the care of children, particularly those with fractures, those suffering the effects of cerebral palsy (then called spasticity) and scoliosis. He chaired the Board of the Spastic Centres of South Australia, was a founding member of the Australian Paediatric Orthopaedic Society and a strong contributor to various societies.
Generations of Australians had their lives improved by Andrew. His expertise in communication, clinical care and persistent quest for improvement in outcomes for patients were witnessed daily. A conservative surgeon who made operations seem easy, unhurried, and performed with finesse. He had a wonderful style of communicating, being able to listen to opinions, debate in good spirit and provide formal advice no matter how difficult the situation. He nurtured and cared for junior colleagues from all specialties, encouraging the importance of professional behaviour above self-interest or personal gain.
He was an adept administrator, always willing to hear the various opinions and then statesmanlike in providing formal advice, even when faced with difficult decisions.
He was Head of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital (South Australia) for 10 years and then Chief of Surgery. He worked in close collaboration with the nursing staff for whom he was the strongest medical advocate for their importance in the healing of children.
Andrew had a distinguished career in representing surgeons, not only his orthopaedic colleagues through the Australian Orthopaedic Association, but all surgeons with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
He served as a RACS examiner on the Orthopaedic Court from 1988 - 1996, including four years as senior examiner. He was a member of RACS Council from 1998 - 2008, holding many official roles including Chairman of the Court of Examiners 2002-2003, Honorary Treasurer 2003-2007 and he was the first Orthopaedic Surgeon to be elected President 2007-2008.
Andrew contributed enormously to cementing closer ties between the Australian Orthopaedic Association and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
The College recognised his commitment with his appointment to its Court of Honour as an acknowledgement and gratitude to his significant contributions.
It is the activities outside one’s formal career that are usually the most revealing and, with Andrew, there is an extensive list. From an early age he was drawn to the sea and sailed Lightweight Sharpies at Glenelg Sailing Club with his brother Peter and various crew. These large dinghies were sailed by only the toughest and bravest, and set the scene for many later adventures including three Sydney to Hobart Yacht Races, on board David Urry’s “War Games” yacht with Andrew being the navigator. He was in his element in rough conditions and regaled us with stories of brave men on the foredeck who he admired for their resilience. He rounded out his nautical interest with appointment to the Board of the National Maritime Museum in Sydney. In 2010 his contributions for service to medicine as an orthopaedic surgeon, an innovator in the field of surgical education and assessment, and as a mentor of young doctors was recognised with the award of an Order of Australia (AM).
Light planes and a pilot’s licence supplemented his navigation penchant, supplemented by a surprise birthday present of syndicate ownership in a Mooney aircraft from his loving wife Sibby. This set the scene for adventures across Australia with long flights to places such as Perth, Cairns as well as multiple other expeditions. He was lucky to cheat disaster when both fuel pumps failed over Spencer Gulf – with the engine out of action, he calmly instructed Sibby, colleague John Stephen and his wife Christina to don their lifejackets, called Mayday and then gently glide-turned 180 degrees before safely landing the plane in a farmer’s wheat-field on Eyre Peninsula (with no human injuries). The farmer welcomed the surprise arrival of surgeon Andrew who had recently operated on his own daughter!
Andrew married Sibby in 1998 and together they ventured across the world, enjoying invitations to visit from many friends. Peter Cundy has vivid memories of travel across India with Andrew and Sibby. Andrew was determined to witness the true India firsthand and insisted in choosing second-class sleepers. Sibby and Andrew were so wonderful together.
Tributes from Australian and international friends and colleagues have been prolific. So many have described his true warm friendship, stimulating conversations, erudite nature, and constant desire to do good things. A quintessential gentleman.
Some messages of condolence are worth repeating.
“Today we have lost one of our finest”, as well as a most telling tribute from one of his closest friends “A man of much substance who knew how to get the most out of life”.
Peter Cundy FRACS and Tony Sparnon FRACS