Phyllis Anderson, the only child of a respected general practitioner and his wife, was born in Sydney. After attending the Methodist Ladies' College, Burwood, she entered the faculty of medicine at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1925. She then worked at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, where she was trained in pathology by Dr Tidswell, himself an outstanding bacteriologist. Admitted to Membership of the College on 13 December 1938, she received certificate number one after the first examinations conducted. She joined the department of bacteriology at the University of Sydney, where she worked as a teaching fellow and later a part-time lecturer with Professor HK Ward and subsequently with Professor PM de Burgh, until her sudden, untimely death.
Her professional work was marked by a deep knowledge and understanding of her subject. Both her scholarship and her wit made her a valued contributor to the Medical Journal of Australia, where an editorial reference to a `distinguished Australian pathologist' led to her having the nickname `DAP'.
Phyllis Anderson was a very early and active member of the Medical Women's Society of New South Wales, of which she was president in the year 1945-46. She also represented medical women on the standing committee of convocation of the University of Sydney and served on the council of the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association, as representative of the women members of the Association. This was not mere politics or diversion, but service arising from a strong belief in the importance of women in the medical profession.
Outside the laboratory and classroom she also had a deep interest in music, dancing and literature, making an especially active contribution to the development of training for ballet in Australia. She was a member of the overseas advisory committee of the then Royal Academy of Dancing, giving medical advice on the award of the overseas scholarships and assisting in the arrangements for the celebrated tour of Dame Margot Fonteyn in 1957.
Phyllis Anderson is remembered with great warmth and affection by those who knew her personally and by those whom she taught. Of her time at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children an anonymous colleague wrote:
'What a pleasure for the residents and what unique instruction for the students when the late Dr Edgar Stephen and other senior honoraries would send for Phyllis Anderson on their rounds. An interesting case would be discussed in the ward, and then the group would go down to the pathology department and be shown specimens and listen to the stories of similar cases. This was pathological practice as Phyllis Anderson thought it should be - a marriage of the clinical and academic. A slide was not just a specimen, but something belonging `to that unhappy baby with the teddy bear in the second bed on the right.' Later, when at the University, demonstrating malarial parasites, she took a delight in knowing the slide was of the blood of a particularly courageous member of the Australian Imperial Force. She was a lesson in humanity and humility for all women graduates.'
Her devotion to medicine, her intellectual rigour and her accuracy and economy of speech set a fine example to medical students. Reticent about her personal affairs, she was withal a warm and compassionate woman, to whom students - and graduates - not only could but did turn to for advice and help. Her bequest for the University of Sydney has been used to establish the Phyllis Anderson Research Fellowship, a fitting memorial to one who regarded the University as her home and its medical students and graduates as her family.
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