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Richard Roderick (Rod) Andrew (1911–1994)

by Stephen Due

This article was published:

Richard Roderick (Rod) Andrew (1911–1994), gastroenterologist, army medical officer, and medical educator, was born on 26 February 1911 in Perth, younger child of New South Wales-born Frank Carl Frederic Andrew, medical practitioner, and his Victorian-born wife Jemima, née Urquhart. The family moved to Victoria in 1913. Rod was educated at Toorak Preparatory Grammar School (1919–22) and Geelong Grammar School (1923–29), where he coxed the Head of the River crew in 1927. His father, whom he greatly admired, died of coronary disease in 1926. As a resident of Trinity College, he studied medicine at the University of Melbourne (MB, BS, 1935; MD, 1940), befriending his fellow student (Sir) Sydney Sunderland, later the dean of medicine at the university. Following his graduation, he served as a resident medical officer at the Royal Melbourne and (Royal) Children’s hospitals, and in 1939 was appointed acting clinical superintendent at Princess Margaret Hospital, Perth.

While a student, Andrew had trained (1930–32) with the Melbourne University Rifles. When World War II broke out, he immediately volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force and was appointed as a captain, Australian Army Medical Corps, on 13 October 1939. He served in the Middle East with the 2/2nd Australian General Hospital (1940–41), the 2/7th Field Ambulance (1941–42) and the 2/6th FA (1941). As a major with the 105th Casualty Clearing Station (1942–43) and the 2/1st CCS (1943) in Papua, he was mentioned in despatches for his services. At Cairns, Queensland, from June 1943 he commanded the Land Headquarters Medical Research Unit that investigated malaria treatment. His other wartime research included work on dysentery and Queensland tick typhus. In January 1944 he was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel (substantive, July). Postings as head of the medical divisions of the 2/2nd AGH (1944–45) and the 2/7th AGH (1945) followed. From August 1945 he spent six months in New Guinea, commanding the 102nd CCS from November. On 12 April 1946 he transferred to the Reserve of Officers.

Awarded a Nuffield travelling fellowship in 1946, Andrew studied in London under the gastroenterologist Francis Avery-Jones and gained membership of the Royal College of Physicians (fellow, 1959). Returning to Melbourne, he joined the Alfred Hospital as physician to outpatients (1947–57) and started in private practice. He was also a visiting medical officer (1947–57) at the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg. On 1 May 1948 at the office of the government statist, Melbourne, he married Joan Sidney Stuart, née Watt, a divorcee.

From 1947 to 1954 Andrew conducted research on gastrointestinal motility at the Baker Medical Research Institute. It was the beginning of a long association with the Baker; he later served as a board member (1960–87), and as newsletter editor and archivist. At the Alfred, he became a consultant physician (1957–64) and clinical dean affiliated with the University of Melbourne (1957–60). He gained membership of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 1958 (fellow, 1963).

In 1958 Andrew’s career entered a new phase when he joined the interim council of Monash University. In June 1960 the council appointed him foundational dean of medicine, the role for which he is chiefly remembered. For the council, this was a bold move. Although Andrew had been ‘engaged in teaching medical students since 1947’ (Blackwood 1968, 63), he had been clinical dean at the Alfred only from 1957, and his main occupation had been his medical practice. Despite his lack of academic experience, he flourished at Monash, where his outstanding leadership skills, combined with an incisive intellect, were abundantly evident in the planning and management of the new medical school. The memoirs of his colleagues testify to his achievements, but his lasting memorial is the medical school itself, with its distinctive focus on the social aspects of medicine.

Andrew brought to Monash an egalitarian outlook that often seemed to his contemporaries to be at odds with his privileged position in society. He was, for example, a member of both the Melbourne Club and the Australian Labor Party; a member and councillor (1964–73) of the Australian Medical Association and an advocate of socialised medicine. Interested in promoting government-funded universal health care, he attended a seminal meeting in 1967 with Gough Whitlam, then leader of the Opposition, and the economists Dick Scotton and John Deeble, who produced the blueprint for the universal health insurance scheme Medibank the following year. The Labor politician Barry Jones described Andrew as a ‘major architect’ (2006, 209) of Medibank under the Whitlam government. In 1973 he resigned from the AMA over its opposition to the scheme and helped establish the Doctor’s Reform Society.

Jones remembered Andrew as ‘suave, good-looking, [and] elegantly dressed’ (2006, 209), while a university colleague, Basil Hetzel, described him as ‘a colourful and charming character,’ who succeeded as dean owing to ‘his considerable intelligence and wit’ (2005, 106). Andrew was a member of the Monash University council until 1973, also serving as a councillor (1974–77) of the Australian National University. He was a director of the Australian-American Educational Foundation (chairman, 1970–76) and followed the careers of its Fulbright scholars irrespective of their disciplines. Appointed AO in 1976, he retired as professor emeritus at the end of that year and was awarded an honorary doctorate of medicine. His only child, Rosalind, died tragically the same year. He served as director of medical education at St Frances Xavier Cabrini Hospital, Malvern, until 1983. A lifelong amateur writer and artist, he included among his friends the painter Sir Russell Drysdale (whom he met at school) and the author Alan Moorehead. Survived by his wife, Andrew died on 12 February 1994 at Cabrini Hospital and was cremated. In 2004 Monash University inaugurated the Rod Andrew Oration in his honour.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Andrew, Rod. ‘How I Survived a World War and the Ire of God.’ Medical Practice, April 1985, 32–37
  • Andrew, R. R. ‘A Summing Up.’ Medical Journal of Australia, 10–24 December 1983, 653–56
  • Andrew, Rod. Interview by Bryan Gandevia, 6 September 1993. Videorecording. Royal College of Physicians
  • Andrew, Rod, and Alf Barnett, eds. In Their Day: The Baker Medical Research Institute Memoirs of Alumni. Melbourne: Hyland House, 1992
  • Blackwood, Robert. Monash University: The First Ten Years. Melbourne: Hampden Hall, 1968
  • Firkin, Barry G. ‘Richard Roderick Andrew.’ In Lives of the Fellows, Royal College of Physicians. Accessed 23 October 2017. Copy held on ADB file
  • Hetzel, Basil S. Chance and Commitment. Kent Town, SA: Wakefield Press, 2005
  • Hurley, T. H., and G. C. Schofield. ‘Andrew, Richard Roderick.’ College Roll, Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Accessed 23 October 2017. Copy held on ADB file
  • Jones, Barry. A Thinking Reed. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2006
  • Parsons, Peter, and Ted Kay. ‘Vale Rod Andrew.’ In Annual Report, 8–9. Baker Medical Research Institute, 1993
  • Walker, Allan S. Clinical Problems of War. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1952
  • Walker, Allan S. Island Campaigns. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1952

Additional Resources

Citation details

Stephen Due, 'Andrew, Richard Roderick (Rod) (1911–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2018, accessed online 14 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

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