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Vol. 18 No 1 | Autumn 2016
College -> Obituaries
Obituary: Dr Roderick Donald Macdonald
Dr Therese McGee

This article is 8 years old and may no longer reflect current clinical practice.

Dr Roderick Donald Macdonald

(1934 – 2015)

Roderick Donald Macdonald was born in Grafton on 1 October 1934 and died in Sydney on 16 May 2015. His former colleagues readily name him as one of the singular influences on their careers; he was an exceptional doctor and person, universally loved and admired by colleagues and patients alike.

Rod did his specialist training at Crown Street Women’s Hospital, Sydney, and subsequently in London and Edinburgh in the UK. He returned in the mid-1960s to a consultant position back at Crown Street, which he greatly enjoyed, before choosing, in 1978, to become a foundation consultant at the new teaching hospital in the geographical centre of Sydney, Westmead, where he remained until his retirement in mid-1999.

Rod was a great practitioner of the art of obstetrics and gynaecology – highly skilled, knowledgeable and wise – but he was much more than that. He had no ego, nothing to prove. He never sought the limelight or his own advantage; never put his own interests ahead of anyone else’s. He was uncritical, though not unobserving, and he treated everyone, patients and staff alike, in his characteristic unhurried and respectful manner. Patients waited months to see him, while GPs and registrars shamelessly jumped the queue for themselves or their families, eager to secure his precious attendance at the birth or surgery.

While he was mild and humble in his nature, he was quite bold in his clinical practice. He kept up to date and modified how he cared for patients whenever the evidence regarding best practice changed. He was an early proponent of keeping birth as natural as possible, employing dim lighting, early skin to skin time and encouraging the participation of the husband. Similarly, he was an early adopter of office hysteroscopy and cervical LLETZ/laser therapy to keep women out of hospital.

He was a wonderful colleague, his perfect blend of experience and humility making him highly sought after to discuss a tricky clinical scenario or share a less than optimal outcome. No matter the error a colleague might admit to, Rod would express support and sympathy – and then reliably trump it with a bigger mistake of his own.

He was an extremely energetic supporter of registrars, an enabling and forbearing teacher, always genuinely interested in the opinion of even the most junior trainee. He would listen attentively to the proposed management plan before agreeing ‘yes, that’s a good idea’ as if, without the registrar, he wouldn’t have thought of half of it himself. He also consciously took registrars through rare catastrophic scenarios they might encounter only once during their careers so if or when such an event did occur, they would be better prepared to manage it. He became a RANZCOG examiner to improve the registrars’ pass rate, spending weekends marking tedious, meandering practice essays to broaden their knowledge and refine their technique until eventually, just in time, they were exam ready.

Finally, he had a great sense of humour, often expressed more in what he hinted at with a small smile than what he actually said. He was particularly famous for the creative ways he disguised his ‘VIP’ patients’ names in the induction book.

Rod Macdonald was a wonderful doctor and an exceptional person. He leaves his gorgeous wife Robin, children Susan, Sarah, Angus and Hamish, thousands of patients and several generations of colleagues enormously thankful to have known him.


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