Ian Jeffreys Wood was born in Melbourne on 5 February 1903 and died 1 September 1986, aged 83. He was the only child of Dr Arthur Jeffreys Wood, a well known paediatrician, whose family came from England to Australia in 1853. The family of his mother, Blanche Isla, nee Outhwaite, arrived from England in 1847. Ian's life-long education started at Melbourne Grammar School in 1911 where he had a moderately successful academic career, and considerable success as an athlete. He played District cricket against such cricketers as Ironmonger and Ponsford. He was awarded a Blue for cricket and hockey at the University, not to be compared with his school colours for cricket; against Wesley College in 1920 he took 9 wickets for 25 in one innings, included four wickets with successive balls.
He entered Melbourne University in 1922 in a year whose MB BS graduates included Graeme Robertson (qv 1) and EV Keogh (qv 1). "Bill" Keogh was to play a significant role in Ian's professional life. Wood, having been high on the honours list, did his first resident year at the Royal Melbourne Hospital with which throughout his whole professional life he was involved. His next appointment, 1929, was as RMO to the Royal Children's Hospital, where his father had been an Honorary, he became Medical Superintendent the following year, memorable for the serious epidemic or poliomyelitis.
The standard post-graduate course was followed - ship's doctor, an appointment to Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, where he was a house physician to Sir Robert Hutchinson, the doyen of London paediatricians. He obtained his MRCP in 1932. After further experience in London principally at St Bartholomew's where Sir Thomas Dunhill (MB BS Melb 1903) and Sir Francis Fraser were on the Visiting Staff, he returned to Melbourne in 1934 and was appointed as Outpatient physician to the Royal Children's Hospital. By 1936 he had been weaned from paediatrics by an appointment as outpatient physician to Royal Melbourne Hospital under Dr Hume Turnbill (qv 1), FRACP, whose firm corresponded with that of Sir Alan Newton and Mr Robert Syme, the latter an old friend.
Wood's overseas experience had led to his pioneering massive blood transfusions in Australia, having worked in 1935 with HL Marriott and A Kekwick at the Middlesex Hospital, London, who had introduced this technique. This was to prove invaluable for the many cases of gastro-intestinal bleeding at the RMH. As a junior RMO in both these firms (Newton-Turnbull) the writer experienced his enthusiasm and indefatigable care for his patients - the fullest back-up day or any time at night to the resident staff. These experiences were to prove the beginning of one of his greatest achievements, the introduction of the Blood Bank, established in the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. This vital technique flowed on to the Red Cross Service; his effective advocacy of blood banks in all capital cities; his influence on the blood typing of all recruits to the AIF; and the organisation of blood transfusion equipment and its deployment in the Army. All of this was made possible by his appointment from 1935 to 1937 to the Hall Institute adjoining the RMH, as Marion Carty Fellow, which ran parallel with his clinical appointment at RMH. Of life-long influence were the Director of the Hall Institute, Macfarlane Burnet (qv 1), and his brilliant staff which included W. Feldberg, EV. Keogh (qv 1), Dora Lush and Mavis Freeman. This was to have unforeseen and fortunate consequences both for Ian and indeed the Institute after World War II.
Ian Wood became VX242 Major Ian Wood, 2/2 Australian General Hospital, AIF, at the beginning of World War 2, embarking with this unit as specialist physician for the Middle East in April 1940. After a period of relative inactivity but including an excellent course in tropical medicine conducted by Professor Saul Adler, FRS, at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem for a group of novice RAAMC officers, Wood was seconded to the 2/1 and 2/2 Field Ambulance during Wavell's Western Desert campaign early in 1941. He as at the Battle of Tobruk in January, working with his surgical friends Majors Orm Smith and Douglas Stephens. In no campaign till this one had there been such an effective resuscitation, blood transfusion service close to the battle front. Its creation and now deployment in the field was directly under Ian's control. One third of those operated on were given a transfusion. He returned to 2/2 AGH - then sited at Kantara on the Suez Canal - which received medical and surgical casualties from the Western Desert and later Greece and Crete Campaigns. He was again transferred to Tobruk in August 1941 dealing with medical cases and resuscitation, evacuated by October with virus hepatitis at the insistence of Colonel L. Speirs C/O of 2/4 AGH.
On returning to Australia in March 1942, Wood was to become O/C Medical Division of 2/2 AGH first at Hughenden in Queensland (back-up for the notorious Brisbane line) and then at Atherton, 30 miles inland from Cairns. Malarial casualties were becoming catastrophic in the New Guinea campaign, reaching 740 per thousand per annum and in some battle areas 82 per thousand per week. As the result of the urgent plea by Brigadier Neil Fairley, the Director of Medicine AIF, to General Blamey and the Government, the LHQ Medical Research Unit was set up at Cairns for malarial research. This was complemented by Wood's medical unit in 2/2 AGH. As the first O/C of this research unit the writer is fully seized of Wood's essential contribution - his advice, wisdom and optimism on which Fairley and his colleagues depended to a significant degree. Their close friendship continued until Fairley's death in 1966. Ian was awarded the Fairley Medal in 1974, established by the Royal College of Physicians from a gift by Lady Hamilton Fairley, the award alternating with the RACP for "a citizen of any country for an outstanding contribution to medicine." This gave him enormous pleasure.
As a result of Fairley's research it was proved that adequate Atebrin dosage would control malaria in the field. By December 1943 the malarial casualties for New Guinea had been reduced from 740 per 1000 to 26 per 1000 per annum. Of Fairley and his colleagues, the WHO publication in 1981, Chemotherapy of Malaria, stated that as the result of the impetus Fairley's research gave to the manufacture of huge quantities of Atebrin (Mepacrine) and its confident use which proved to be so effective, "There is no exaggeration in saying that this probably changed the course of modern history." This had led to the control of malaria in the Allied troops in South East Asia, and the defeat of Japan. Towards the end of the War, Colonel Ian Wood, MBE, for his service in the Middle East, was appointed Commanding Officer of 2/7 AGH in New Guinea. His final posting as O/C Medical Division was to 115 Heidelberg Military Hospital in Melbourne, where he took part in the early experimental clinical use of penicillin.
After the war he returned to private practice and was appointed an Honorary Inpatient Physician at Royal Melbourne Hospital. The need for, the success of, research during World War 2, changed the face of biomedical research in Australia. With his appointment as Assistant Director to Burnet at the Hall Institute 1945, and then Foundation Head of the Clinical Research Unit in 1946, he was a prime mover in this biomedical revolution. His clinical and scientific experiences converged to establish the extraordinarily strong and productive team directed towards research in gastroenterology. His unit was intimately associated with Burnet and his brilliant team in the 1950's including Frank Fenner and Gus Nossal at the threshold of their research careers. Wood built up a remarkably original and productive clinical staff - Eric Saint (qv), Ian Mackay, Senga Whittingham, Reg Mottram, John Perry (qv 1), Ron Doig, Dick Joske. At times, for varying periods, he appointed many young clinicians on the threshold of distinguished careers. Among them, Bill King (qv 1), Harry Garlick, Peter Parsons, Tom Hurley, Leon Taft, Ken Fairley, Peter Ebeling, Frank Martin, Nigel Gray. He lured Burnet back to a keen interest in the clinical field that he had left years before. Liver biopsy was introduced; seminal work on immunology; and Ian invented the gastric biopsy tube which opened up a whole new field of research and diagnosis. His definitive paper on gastric biopsy was based on over 1000 gastric biopsies. Characteristically he insisted that the first use of his invention should be on himself, an honour shared by Peter Parsons and Ian Mackay. These researchers were all the product of those exhilarating days of discovery at the Hall Institute - the joyous dawn of clinical research in Australia of which Wood can be recognised as the founding father. Burnet's classical research was complemented by the more pragmatic mode of Wood and his team which reflected the strong romantic strain of its head.
After his obligatory retirement from the Hall Institute in 1963 at the age of 60, Wood was appointed an Honorary Consultant to Royal Melbourne Hospital and returned to private practice, the doyen of gastroenterologists in Australia. He was a founding member of the Gastroenterological Society in 1959, giving a memorable oration in 1974 at the celebration of its 25th anniversary. High honours he carried with grace and was comfortable with his own rank and others of whatever degree. Knighthood was conferred in 1976. He gave the Syme Memorial Lecture in 1971 and the Stawell Oration in 1975.
His retirement saw no end to his many activities: teacher, consultant, clinician, and researcher. From 1963 to 1975 he was a consultant to Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital; to Repatriation Hospital Heidelberg; and to the Heatherton Hospital (drug and alcohol dependence section). At the invitation of the Dean he took regular rounds at Prince Henry's Hospital of 6th year students of the new medical school of Monash University and gave lectures. After his "final" retirement in 1979 he wrote his autobiography which contains a wealth of invaluable historical material about research in Australia and the role of medicine in World War II. This was made possible by his unfailing correspondence with his wife Edith (nee Cooke) whom he had married in 1935. There were two daughters of this happiest of marriages.
His connection with the College was close and continuing. He was a foundation Fellow 1938; Councillor from 1930 to 1956; Vice-President from 1954 to 1956 and a member of the Victorian State Committee from 1944 to 1956, and the Scientific Advisory Committee from 1950 to 1956. What of the man himself? He was tall, handsome, and looked many years younger than his age even in his eighties. He had a rather mercurial temperament; easily amused and never disguising his enjoyment of a situation, but almost preternaturally grave when the occasion demanded. At times this in turn could be followed by almost schoolboy reactions. Although brilliantly successful as a clinical-scientist, the "doctor" was always dominant. Throughout his five years in the Army, he could not avoid looking like a doctor in a brown suit, with his cap at an angle more like a schoolboy's than senior officer.
Ian was generous to a degree with his work and ghosted many papers for his staff at the Hall Institute on which his name did not appear - "gift authorship" was not his way. Of his 70 publications in the medical press, 16 were single authorship. He was unfailing in his encouragement of his friends and colleagues especially his young team, many of whom made their mark at a high level of clinical success. A kind word, a brief letter earned the firm loyalty - his and theirs - of many of his co-workers and friendship for life. His enduring optimism was reflected in the high morale of his happy and productive team at the Hall Institute.
His autobiography was not a model of prose. He was given to purpose passages and at times fulsome praise - all his geese were swans and regal at that. But this was all part of his warmth and his friendly nature. The book is an invaluable document by a gifted and highly successful Australian in peace and war. His death on 1 September 1986 was followed by a memorial service at the Toorak Uniting Church where his close friend and colleague, Dr Ian Mackay, gave a moving eulogy worthy of the man. His was indeed "a fortunate life".
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