Qualifications: AM (1986) MBBS Syd (1942) MD Syd (1971) MRACP (1955) FRACP (1971) FFOM (RCP) (1982) FACOM (1982) Hon Fellow ACOM (1988) FRCP Lond (1988) FRCP Edin (1988)
David Alexander Ferguson was born in Sydney, the third of five sons of Dr Eustace William Ferguson and Jessie Ferguson (née Perry.) David had one sister. He was one of the founders of the Australian College of Occupational Medicine in 1982 and was the College’s second president from 1985 to 1987. He collapsed and died unexpectedly at his home in Lindfield, Sydney on 12 March 2002 at the age of 81 following a dinner party with friends. His service to occupational and environmental medicine was subsequently commemorated by an event at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in Sydney on 23rd October 2002, and by the Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine's yearly keynote lecture, the Ferguson Glass Oration.
His father was a Sydney medical microbiologist, pathologist and medical entomologist who was also president of the Linnean Society of NSW. David married Betty Marian Rogalsky in Sydney on 27 June 1942. They had one son and two daughters (born in 1943, 1946 and 1948) and nine grandchildren. Throughout his life David was known as “Tiny” by his wife and the Ferguson family. This was a childhood name bestowed by his two older brothers, however he grew to be more than 193cms (6ft 4in) tall.
David was educated at Sydney Grammar School and studied medicine at the University of Sydney. He graduated in 1942 with Class II Honours. Due to the war, he completed an accelerated Junior Resident and Senior Resident Medical Officer appointment at Royal North Shore Hospital from June 1942 until September 1943. He was then commissioned with the rank of Captain in the 2 / 13 Field Ambulance, AIF serving mostly in South East Asia until decommissioned in 1946.
On his return to Australia, he was appointed as Government Medical Officer at Narromine in NSW from 1946 to 1949. He maintained this government appointment while also working in general medical practice at Narromine and at Lane Cove in Sydney from 1946 until 1960. In 1949 he was appointed Honorary Outpatient Physician at Royal North Shore Hospital and held this appointment until 1959. He undertook sessional work in the Royal North Shore Hospital Diabetic Clinic during 1956 and 1957. He also had a concurrent appointment as Honorary Paediatrician at the Langton Clinic in Sydney commencing in 1952. He was appointed as an Honorary Outpatient Physician at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) in Sydney in 1970 and maintained this appointment until he was appointed as Consultant in Occupational Medicine there in 1975. He continued in this role until his retirement in 1987.
In 1961 David was appointed to the Occupational Health Section of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Commonwealth Department of Health at the University of Sydney. In 1982, after several promotions, he became Director of the Commonwealth Institute of Health which was subsequently renamed with its original name, the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Within the University of Sydney, David had a part time lecturing appointment from 1966 to 1970, followed by appointments as Lecturer 1970 to 1971, Senior Lecturer 1972 to 1974, Associate Professor 1975 to 1976, Professor 1976 to 1987, and Professor Emeritus in 1987. He also had academic appointments in the School of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and at the Department of Thoracic Medicine both at the University of New South Wales. He was Consultant to the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission from 1985 until 1989.
His committee work included memberships of the Carcinogenesis Committee of the NSW Cancer Council 1979-1982, the Committee of Inquiry into Health Hazards at Munitions Filling Factory, St Marys 1980, the working party of the Australian Academy of Science on Lead and the Environment 1980-1981, the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health 1976-1985, the Human Factors Committee, Standards Association of Australia 1966-1985, the Poisons Schedules Sub-committee, National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) 1969-1985, the Public Health Advisory Committee, NH&MRC 1982-1985. He was chairman of the Occupational Health Committee, NH&MRC from 1976 to 1985.
David Ferguson’s College and professional society involvements included long-term membership and presidency of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine, and presidency of the Ergonomics Society of Australia and New Zealand. He was Councillor of the NSW Branch of the Australian Medical Association, Board Member of the Permanent Commission and International Association on Occupational Health (later renamed International Commission on Occupational Health), Members and Chairman of the Asian Association on Occupational Health, and Chief Censor and then President of the Australian College of Occupational Medicine (later to become AFOM and then AFOEM.)
His research interests covered the fields of stress; blood abnormalities in chemical plant operators; repetition strain injury; ergonomics of mail sorting; visual standards; respiratory disease in the printing industry; asbestos disease in workers at the Garden Island Naval Dockyard; coronary heart disease in public servants; the health of dentists, pesticide workers, atomic energy workers and electric train drivers; wheat farmers’ asthma; occupational factors in hypertension and coronary heart disease; the health of Vietnam Veterans; and he was chairman of the Mesothelioma Surveillance Program.
His list of publications and major presentations cover nearly 20 typed pages across all of the areas listed above. His MD Thesis submitted in 1969 was entitled Stress and Health in Telegraphy. It led to far reaching changes in work organization and provision of occupational health and ergonomic services for workers in the telecommunications sector.
Outside of medicine, his major interests were in his family, golf, classical music, Hunter River reds, gardening and native flora. He was vice president of the Killara Golf Club in Sydney from 1976 to 1980 and was made a Life Member in 1986.
Author: IR GARDNER