Qualifications: MB BS Melb (1938) MD Melb (1945) MRACP (1945) FRACP (1954)
Donald Duffy was born on 1 January 1915, at Mourilyan, North Queensland, the son of Leontine Joseph Duffy, a manager of Australian Sugar Pty. Ltd., and Bessie Rose Grant. Don had a brother, Douglas, who trained in surgery as an urologist and a sister, Dorothy, who was a nurse. He married Mary Hazel Colebatch on 26 June 1943. Mary practised as a physiotherapist throughout her adult life and served overseas with the Australian Military forces. They had five children: Jennifer, a physiotherapist; Donald, a solicitor; Ian a barrister; Stuart, a dentist and Andrew, an executive with Telstra. A tall, handsome, athletic figure, Don died in January 1995 from cerebral metastases. John Colebatch, the eminent paediatrician was his brother-in-law.
Don was educated at Geelong College, graduated MBBS from Melbourne University in 1938 and completed his MD Melbourne in 1945. After a year as Resident Medical Officer at Royal Melbourne Hospital, he enlisted in the second AIF and was posted as Regimental Medical Officer to the 2/4 Battalion and served with great distinction in Syria and New Guinea, where his battalion played major roles in holding the Japanese advance along the Kokoda Trail. He was mentioned in dispatches and attained the rank of Major in 1942.
On discharge from the Army he was awarded a Nuffield Dominion Travelling Fellowship, which took him to London where he worked with Professor Clifford Wilson in experimental studies on hypertension and nephritis. His return to Melbourne was welcomed with appointments at the Alfred Hospital, the Austin Hospital, and the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg. For three or four years he worked as a MacKeddie Research Fellow at the Baker Medical Research Institute where his work was concerned again with hypertension and renal disease.
At the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, where eventually his energies were focussed, he was first of all Sub-Dean and subsequently Dean of the Clinical School and was instrumental in obtaining funds for the first commercially built Renal Dialysis Unit used in the hospital.
At the Austin Hospital, he was responsible, together with the late Keith Bradley (Neurosurgeon) and Tom Patrick (Medical Superintendent) for setting up the Spinal Unit, which became an important feature of this hospital. Over the years, the hallmark of his hospital case record entries could be seen in his perpetual use of green ink, a reminder of years past and pleasant clinical and personal associations
Don served on the Victorian State Committee of the RACP from 1958-64, was a member of the Australian Rheumatism Association, the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand and the Australasian Society of Nephrology
Don was well known in the outside world as Medical Officer at the Melbourne Football Club and later served as President of the Melbourne Football Club for several years. He was also a Committee member of the Melbourne Cricket Club. The late Jim Sewell, physician at Alfred Hospital, (qv 1) recorded that Don Duffy was probably the best Regimental Medical Officer in the entire 2nd AIF. These qualities carried over into his post-war life, where he was a remarkably shrewd and modest physician who always appeared to have enormous time for whomsoever he was in discussion with at a particular moment, be it patient, colleague or friend. Don continued to act as an advocate for former servicemen and only two weeks before his death at the age of 80, he consulted the author of this biography to see if it were possible to help one of the former soldiers from the 2/4 Battalion.
Don’s hobbies included regular games of squash, bush-walking and surfing.
His funeral in January 1995 was attended by an enormous congregation from all walks of life, and the length of the eulogies delivered extended the service to nearly two hours.
Author: BS GILLIGAN