Dr Rue Wright
12 December 1939 — 20 January 1991
Rue Wright was held in high regard by community child health practitioners. Rue was a significant founder of The Australian Child Health Medical Association (ACHMA) in 1984; the first Australian association of community child health doctors.
Rue worked as a Child Health Medical Officer (now call a Career Medical Officer) at the Community Child Health Centre in Parramatta in the 1980's. She was the Chief Medical Officer there. There were a network of these centres across Sydney to which children were referred if the Infant Childhood Nurse at a Baby Health Centre (now called Early Childhood Centre) had concerns about a child. This was where early developmental or medical problems were often first noted. In addition, the centres also provided Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
Rue was proactive in organising medical officers from the centres into a local association to provide mutual professional support and continuing education. These doctors were not part of the Australian College of Paediatrics (ACP) (now the Paediatrics & Child Health Division (PCHD) of the RACP since 1998) so they did not have access to that network for continuing professional development. The local association grew into the ACHMA, with involvement of paediatricians working in community child health. ACHMA was a forerunner of the Faculty of Community Child Health, established under the ACP, and now known as the Chapter of Community Child Health which is aligned to the PCHD. The Chief Health Medical Officers could join the original Faculty in 1990 and were subsequently grandfathered in to the Chapter.
Rue Wright was born in Concord, near Oakland, California on 12 December 1939. She was named Ruhamah Glasgow Wright, however was always called "Rue".
After grade school in Concord, she attended junior and senior high school in Houston, Texas. She spent her university year in Germany on a Stanford program, then worked as a nurse's aide in a West Berlin Hospital and followed by six months studying at the University of Freiburg. She returned to finish her psychology major and graduate from Stanford in 1963.
Then followed four years at McGill Medical School in Montreal. Rue worked a summer with the U.S. Public Health Laboratory in Atlanta, Georgia, and another summer at a United Church of Canada-operated hospital in Newfoundland. She interned at Montreal General Hospital, and completed her residency at Women's Hospital, Sydney, and a half year in Orange, NSW.
With a German nurse-friend she was the doctor for a year in a Nepalese village, sponsored by a London Medical Mission group, for a year before being hired by NSW Public Health Department to give school physical examinations and to work in well-baby clinics, in Parramatta. She was married to an Australian, Brian Meyer, but had no children.
Rue's untimely death at the early age of 52 was felt by many of her colleagues, however her legacy continues as Rue left money in her will to endow a prize for community child health practitioners undertaking community-based research that would impact on the health and wellbeing of children. The Rue Wright Memorial Award is this legacy.