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Stubbs-Brown, Thomas Victor (1907–1985)

by Bruce Martin

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Thomas Victor Stubbs-Brown (1907-1985), orthopaedic surgeon, was born on 14 July 1907 in Sydney, only child of English-born Thomas Stubbs Brown (d.1913), a 66-year-old retired master mariner, and his Queensland-born wife Margaret, née Ferguson, formerly Bazan.  Thomas was educated at Barker College, Hornsby (1921-24), and the University of Sydney (MB, BS, 1931).  Moving to Queensland, he was appointed to the surgical staff of Brisbane Hospital, and was medical superintendent (1934-35) at Brisbane’s Hospital for Sick Children.  His early interest in orthopaedics was fostered by two local orthopaedic surgeons, A. V. Meehan and G. A. C. Douglas.

On 20 June 1936 at St Luke's Church of England, Mosman, Stubbs-Brown married Janet Kathleen Doak, a schoolteacher.  Shortly after, he travelled to Britain and was awarded a fellowship (1936) of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.  He was appointed orthopaedic supervisor at Brisbane Hospital in 1938.  Orthopaedic surgery gained impetus following a British Medical Association study that showed that fractures were better treated by orthopaedic surgeons than by general surgeons.  At the instruction of the medical superintendent, Dr A. D. Pye, Stubbs-Brown set up a fracture clinic, where he worked tirelessly.

Appointed as a captain, Australian Army Medical Corps, Australian Imperial Force, on 1 November 1940, Stubbs-Brown served in the Middle East in 1941-42 with a number of units, including the 2/4th Australian General Hospital at Tobruk, Libya, during the siege.  In 1943-44 he was with the 106th Casualty Clearing Station in New Guinea.  A shortage of specialists at Brisbane Hospital resulted in his early demobilisation and he transferred to the Reserve of Officers as a major on 16 February 1944.

In 1946 Stubbs-Brown was appointed senior visiting orthopaedic surgeon at Brisbane Hospital.  He practised during a controversy concerning the treatment of poliomyelitis patients by Sister Elizabeth Kenny, whose radical approach, based on hot fomentations and rehabilitation of muscular activity by movement, had a strong following.  On a trip to Britain and the United States of America he and (Sir) Abraham Fryberg, Queensland director-general of health and medical services, visited Sister Kenny, then working in Minneapolis.  In December 1946 they reported to the Queensland Government.  They recommended that treatment based on the Kenny method should be used in the early stages of the disease, but noted that her ideas lacked scientific evidence.

Stubbs-Brown was president (1952-53) and chairman (1954-55) of the Queensland branch council of the BMA.  He was a member (1955-58) of the Medical Board of Queensland.  In 1957 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.  He retired from his hospital appointment in 1958 but continued in private practice on Wickham Terrace into the late 1970s.  Known as Stubbs, he was held in high regard by patients, colleagues and staff.  He was a dextrous and decisive surgeon, and an expert in the relatively rare and difficult procedure of hind-quarter amputation.  Setting a high standard for himself and those who were associated with him, he was a good teacher despite his retiring nature.  He was extremely well informed on a range of subjects, particularly military and European history, and owned a large private library.

A widower, on 12 December 1980 at St Andrew's Uniting Church, Gympie, Stubbs-Brown married Ailsa Munro, a physiotherapist with whom he had had a long professional association.  They retired to Nambour, where he died on 17 September 1985 and was cremated.  His wife and the daughter of his first marriage survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Barry, Orthopaedics in Australia (1983)
  • J. H. Tyrer, History of the Brisbane Hospital and Its Affiliates (1993)
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 15 September 1986, p 277
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Bruce Martin, 'Stubbs-Brown, Thomas Victor (1907–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/stubbs-brown-thomas-victor-15787/text26979, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 21 April 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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