Mind Matters
Vol. 20 No 3 | Spring 2018
Obituary: Prof Alan Hewson AM
Dr Julian Ward

This article is 6 years old and may no longer reflect current clinical practice.

Prof Alan Hewson AM

Alan was a homebirth. The local midwife delivered him in Lisarow, near Gosford, NSW. Alan started out working at BHP doing metallurgy before being awarded a Commonwealth scholarship to study medicine at Sydney University. This gave him free tuition and a small living allowance. He augmented this by working in the orange orchards in the university vacations.

Alan married Pia, who graduated in medicine with him, and they both came to Royal Newcastle Hospital as resident medical officers. He then decided to specialise in O&G in Hobart and spent two years there before going to the UK to do the specialty examination and work for two years at Oxford.

In 1958, Alan began private practice in Newcastle. He had a very productive partnership with Jack Elliott. Alan took a year’s sabbatical in 1965 to go to Edinburgh and study for the surgical fellowship. He achieved this and returned to Newcastle.

Alan was a very skilful surgeon and obstetrician. His rapport with his patients meant he had a huge private practice. He had honorary appointments at Royal Newcastle Hospital, Mater Hospital Brisbane, the former Western Suburbs Hospital, Maitland Hospital, Singleton Hospital and Cessnock Hospital. He taught medical students, residents, registrars, family doctors, nurses and midwives. He set up a medical association study in 1960 to improve the care of pregnant women. There were more than a hundred family doctors doing obstetrics in this region and he obtained the cooperation of them all. He achieved a change in management, which improved the outlook for mother and baby.

Alan was involved in the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG) from 1967 when he set up a local branch of the RCOG called the Northern Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society (NOGS). Alan obtained Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in December 1978 and, following the amalgamation of the Australian and New Zealand Colleges, was admitted as a Fellow of RANZCOG in 1998.

Alan served on the executive of the NSW committee for five years before he was elected to the Australian Council in 1981. He served on this council for 11 years, during which time he chaired the education committee and masterminded the obligatory continuing education and certification program of the College. The program has been a huge success and has formed the template for other medical colleges. Alan was awarded the President’s Medal. He later became Secretary of the College and was involved in the evolution of College subspecialties and relationships with family doctors and midwives.

Locally, Alan was chairman of the medical board of Royal Newcastle Hospital and coordinated, with the Australian Medical Association, the submission to the Karmel Committee, which recommended a medical school for Newcastle. Alan was heavily involved in the integrated curriculum of the new medical school and became Conjoint Professor. In 1990, he was awarded a Doctor of Medicine by the University of Newcastle and was Assistant Dean of Continuing Medical Education from 1994 onwards.

Alan was a foundation member of the Hunter Postgraduate Medical Institute in 1979, serving in the executive. He was Director of Studies at the time of his death. The membership was almost 2000, the largest in Australia.

Alan held many positions in medical administration in the region. He was Chairman of the Planning Committee for the new John Hunter Hospital from 1983–1990 and served on the board for four years.

Alan was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2002. He was recently awarded a PhD for his thesis, The History of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Australia 1950–2010. In the last year of his life, he published a hardcover book based on this thesis.

Alan was married twice. With his first wife, Pia, he had three children. Pia died of a brain tumour and Alan subsequently married Patricia, who he was married to for 40 years. He has eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Alan died on 19 August 2017 at the age of 90.

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