Dr James Henry Evans
(1933 – 2016)
Born in 1933, James Henry Evans was the first child of Port Melbourne Fish and Chip Shop proprietors. During his 84 years, he lived a life of medical service and achievement that spanned a period of great change in his chosen profession, much of which he contributed to.
Dux of his primary school, he attended the selective-entrance Melbourne High School before gaining admission to the University of Melbourne Medical Faculty as a 16-year-old, graduating at age 22 in 1956. He completed his intern year at the Alfred Hospital and then started his life-long work in women’s health as a resident medical officer (RMO) at the Royal Women’s Hospital in 1958 – an association that was to last all of his professional life, until his retirement from the hospital sector as endocrinologist-in-charge in 1996.
He was, in many ways, the co-founder of reproductive endocrinology in Australia, along with his great friend, Prof Rodney Shearman of Sydney University and former President of our College. This unusual pathway for a tyro gynaecologist followed upon completing his early O&G training at the Women’s, a position as registrar in the diabetic unit of the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne.
Upon attaining the MRCOG in 1962 while in Ipswich, England, his course was further set when he obtained a registrarship in General Medicine at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow, Scotland, which led to his satisfying the examiners of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1963 to gain its Membership.
His career, upon returning to Melbourne, led to appointments at the Women’s Hospital and the University of Melbourne, in the Professorial Unit of Prof Sir Lance Townsend at that hospital. He was appointed firstly as an ARC Research Fellow, then as a Senior Research Fellow and then First Assistant (Reader) in the University Department. It was in these years that he forged the collaboration with Prof James Boyer Brown, the father of urinary oestrogen measurement and Dr Margery (Meg) Smith, that defined the protocols for safe and effective ovulation induction with human pituitary gonadotrophin. He served as a Member of the FSH Sub-Committee of the Human Pituitary Advisory Committee of the Department of Health from 1967 to 1987, when it was disbanded.
He retained an interest, from his early training years, in diabetes in pregnancy and was physician to the Diabetic Clinic for 30 years under the obstetric leadership of, in turn, Dr Paul Jeffrey and Dr Peter Heath within the overall leadership of Dr FIR (Skip) Martin.
In addition to heading the Endocrine Clinic at the Women’s, in a long-term partnership with Prof Roger Pepperell, he played a vital shepherding and incubating role, within the male-only senior medical staff, towards Dr Jean Hailes in the inauguration of the Menopause Service and towards Dr Gytha Betheras in the establishment of the Family Planning Clinic at the Women’s.
He was an ever-present, behind-the-scenes influence on the highly-prized, collegiate and social life which was an integral part of the consultant medical staff at the Women’s in those days. But it is at our College and in the editorial committee of our Journal, ANZJOG, that he will be remembered outside of the REI community.
From 1972 until 1986 he was, variously, a committee member, secretary or treasurer of the Victorian State Committee or the Federal Council of first, the Australian Council, RCOG, then the Australian College, following the separation but before its receiving the Royal charter; then the RACOG up until, and having played a role in the merger with our New Zealand brothers and sisters, the establishment of RANZCOG.
Between 1978 and 1981, he was a member of the Residual Committee, RCOG, which oversaw the interregnum from a British to an Australian College.
Importantly, for our new College, he, together with Lance Townsend, identified and negotiated the purchase of the extensive East Melbourne property which became RANZCOG College House.
Other State and Federal service was discharged with distinction, with membership of the Victorian Family Planning Co-ordinating Committee and the Victorian Drug Usage Advisory Committee. In the Federal arena, he was Chairman of the Women’s Health Committee and Chairman of the Maternal Health and Reproduction (Standing) Committee both of the NHMRC and our College’s Representative to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee of the Department of Health.
In 1976, James’ Thesis on Ovulation Induction in the Human Female was accepted for the higher degree of Doctor of Medicine by the University of Melbourne.
He was a generous teacher of the basics and subtleties of ovulation induction to a generation of trainees and young specialists. He was invariably courteous to his colleagues and his patients. His long and distinguished career fulfilled its early promise.
James died on 4 July 2016 and is pre-deceased by his wife, Phoebe-Ann, and survived by his daughter, Bronwen, and his sons, Jonathon and David, and their families.
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