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 New Zealand

College Roll: Harley, John Douglas

Qualifications: MBBS Syd(1952) MRACP (1955) FRACP (1966) MD Syd (1964) FRACMA (1979)

Born: 31/1/1929

Died: 12/7/1997

Sydney paediatrician and medical administrator, Dr John Harley, died on July 12, 1997 after a long battle with cancer. He was 68.

For almost all of his working life Harley was associated with the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children at Camperdown (now the New Children’s Hospital at Westmead). He was an honorary consultant physician with the hospital from 1977.

John Douglas Harley was born at Gordon and educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) where he was a prefect and an excellent student, gaining first class honours in maths in his leaving year.

He went on to the University of Sydney where one of his fellow students in medicine was Kingsley Tugwell; he would become a lifelong friend and a eulogist at Harley’s funeral. In his eulogy Tugwell recalled their student days, including this vignette: “John and I dissected stingrays together on the veranda at Nelson Street, Gordon. Understandably, Mrs Harley objected to the smell but relented in the interests of academia.”

Harley gathered distinctions at university, graduating with honours in 1952. He was appointed to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and then as Chief Resident Medical Officer at the then Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children Camperdown (RAHC).

He continued his work in paediatrics and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Ohio. On his return to Sydney he obtained his Doctorate of Medicine from Sydney University and his Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. He was Research Fellow of the Children’s Medical Research Foundation from 1959 to 1965. In 1966 he was appointed the Foundation’s director after Professor Lorimer Dodds.

His own work at the Foundation was primarily concerned with blood disorders.

His career changed direction in 1977 when he became regional director of the Western Metropolitan Health Region, then a commissioner in the Health Commission of NSW and ultimately a regional director of the NSW Department of Health. He was a vigorous worker for the Australian Red Cross and was also a chairman of the NSW Institute of Psychiatry, the State Cancer Council, the Drug and Alcohol Authority, the Radiological Advisory Committee and the Kidsafe Committee.

He was also a deputy chairman of the Safety Review Committee at Lucas Heights and president of the Paediatric Research Society of Australia.

In the latter part of his career, Harley was deeply involved in disaster planning. He held the position of Chief Medical Officer with the Sate Emergency Services from 1978 to 1987 and was the Officer-in-Charge, Disaster Planning, in the NSW Department of Health during that period.

An enthusiastic Rotarian, Harley was a president of Sydney Rotary and a Paul Harris Fellow for Rotary International in 1989. At the time of his death, he was medical consultant to the State Superannuation Board and Health Department and chairman of the Disputes Committee.

Harley married twice. His first wife, Meg, and their three sons, Hugh, Andrew and Jonathan, survived him, as did his second wife, Maggie.


References: Reproduced with permission from Sydney Morning Herald 25th July 1997 with some abbreviation.