Eric Susman Prize: nominate today

Date published:
25 Jul 2017

Nominations for the Eric Susman Prize close Monday, 9 October 2017.

First awarded in 1962, the Eric Susman Prize is a prestigious award presented annually to an RACP Fellow for the best contribution to the knowledge of any branch of internal medicine.

Dr Eric Susman was a renowned neurologist whose contribution to medicine in Australia continues to be recognised, with a library and this annual award named in his honour. 

Like many of his generation, a young Eric Susman volunteered for service in World War I. In his case, Susman did so even though he was medically unfit. Diagnosed with diabetes insipidus (DI) at the age of ten he had also suffered from a bout of life threatening measles during his teenage years.

At the age of 18 he was part of the contingent which made the historic landing at Gallipoli during World War I.

Susman’s severe injuries at Gallipoli rendered him unfit for war and he returned home, graduating with a medical degree from the University of Sydney in 1921. Appointed briefly as a Resident Medical Officer at Sydney Hospital and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH), he then moved to London where he had the opportunity to specialise in neurology at the National Hospital for Nervous Disease. He was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1924 and discovered his innate passion for neurology.

Eric Susman’s wealth of medical knowledge and expertise was immediately recognised when he returned to Sydney and he was appointed as an Honorary Assistant Physician to RPAH in 1926, remaining there for the rest of his life.

It was at RPAH where Susman became renowned for his substantial contributions to the medical field in Australia. He was one of the first neurologists in Sydney and a pioneer in the setting up of neurological clinics at RPAH and the Royal Alexandra Hospital at a time when specialisation was not favoured.

His lectures and medical papers were meticulously prepared and reflected his original ideas and hypotheses. He was respected by his patients and admired for his compassion and dedication. Eric Susman did not possess the slightest interest in building up a busy private practice which entailed both neurology and general medicine. Instead, he harboured the belief that it was more important for him to expand his collections of neurology journals, explaining it was imperative for future neurologists to have ready access to a vast repertoire of neurology literature so that they would have a firm grounding in this specialised field.

Susman was a versatile, well rounded physician with diverse talents. He took the initiative to organise and conduct Sunday morning medical rounds which eventually laid the foundation of the post-graduate school in medicine at RPAH.

He also devoted a large part of his professional life to teaching, appealing even to the least interested student. He was not only able to simplify mundane and sophisticated medical concepts but also utilised powerful analogies to illustrate a theory so that students would have a clear understanding of the  subject. As an example, Susman likened the atrophic brain of a dementia patient to a “shrivelled walnut in its shell”.

On his retirement, Susman donated the then substantial sum of £5000 to establish a library at RPAH, now known as the Susman Library.

Susman died suddenly on 10 June, 1959. But his legacy continues to live on.

The Eric Susman Prize was established with the help of a generous endowment from Susman’s estate. 

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