Vol. 24 No 3 | Spring 2022
College -> Obituaries
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Dr Erica Kathleen Shellabear

It is with much sadness that we record the death of our dear friend and colleague Dr Erica Shellabear. After a short battle with illness, she peacefully slipped away on 3 March 2022 with her beloved daughter, Sarah, by her side.

Erica was born in Perth at King Edward Memorial Hospital. She was a child of country Australia having spent her formative years in Albany where she developed her adventurous spirit with a great love of sailing, swimming and horse riding.

After a stint in Melbourne, her family returned to the west where she finished her schooling at Methodist Ladies College in Perth in 1976. She then studied medicine and eventually specialised in O&G with her early training at the hospital where she was born. As a registrar, Erica’s warmth and encouragement certainly helped fellow junior doctors settle quickly into the King Eddies team. She made firm enduring friendships with colleagues in that time, our Friday journal club gatherings transitioning to regular social events.

After her fellowship in the UK, she returned to Perth and started a very successful O&G career in Attadale in the South of Perth. Later, she decided to focus on gynaecology and relocated her practice to the Mount Hospital. This suited her well after her daughter was born.

A tragic turn of events changed Erica’s life dramatically. Her husband Michael became ill and passed away, leaving widowed Erica to manage her career and bring up Sarah alone. This was an incredibly difficult time but in characteristic fashion, Erica devoted herself to being the best parent she could as well as building a successful career.

Erica ensured that her career was not going to lose momentum. She embraced recent advances in minimally invasive surgery by training with laparoscopic surgical pioneer, Dr Tony McCartney, to become an expert herself. Her surgical skills were greatly appreciated and coupled with her patient, kind manner, she became a much loved and highly successful surgeon, respected by all.

Erica was an incredibly dedicated mum. Along with successfully managing her busy career, Erica introduced her daughter to her passion of horse riding, and they became proud owners of a beautiful pony, Freddie. Freddie is still a much-loved family member along with their dynasty of Cavalier Spaniels.

Erica’s style of practice was to always include her patients in treatment decisions and to treat everyone with dignity and respect. She has a strong sense of justice and would not shy away from advocating for those she felt were wronged. She loved learning of advancements in her field and marvelled at new techniques and treatment tips from colleagues in general practice and specialties alike.

Erica was a very caring daughter and sister to her two siblings. Erica had recently wound down her private practice to care for her aging father and planned retirement when she was hit with her terrible diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. As always, she faced this with incredible bravery and dignity. She was a wonderful person, truly selfless, and did so much for so many. She made a tremendous contribution to women’s health in Western Australia. Erica has left a legacy of dedication to giving the highest quality of care and showing kindness to all. She will be remembered as an extraordinary woman – kind, powerful, compassionate, empathetic and smart. She is greatly missed.

Dr Lucy Williams and Dr Mini Zachariah, WA


Dr Graeme Ralph Sharp

Dr Graeme Sharp, visiting O&G at Wellington Hospital from 1967 to 1985, was farewelled at a private funeral in Waikanae recently. He was aged 95.
‘Mr Sharp’, as he was always known to the midwives, will be remembered as a calm, confident and distinguished specialist who made a significant contribution to the profession before leaving early to take up farming.

Graeme Ralph Sharp was born in 1926 to a medical family. His father, George, finished medical school early to serve in the first World War (which included time as a medical officer at Gallipoli). Later, George set up practice in Featherston where Graeme’s mother Myrtle, (a former head of Wellington Children’s Hospital) was his nurse.

The young Graeme attended Featherston Primary School and then Christ’s College before heading to Otago University, where he embarked on a BSC, later moving into Medicine. In Dunedin he met Christine Macdonald, his wife of almost 70 years.
Graeme’s first House Surgeon experience was at Wellington Hospital. Then in 1956, with a new baby, the young couple headed to London and Edinburgh for Graeme’s five years specialist training. (St Mary’s, Queen Charlotte‘s and Whittington Hospitals in London. Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.)

Returning to Wellington in 1961 with a Surgical and O&G degree, Graeme was surprised at how difficult it was to break into the Wellington medical establishment. It took three years for him to make it on to the Wellington Hospital staff. Meanwhile he developed a thriving private practice – dashing around in his bright orange MG sports car for another delivery at Bethany, St Helen’s, or Calvary, forever ringing home from public phone boxes to check if he was needed elsewhere or could call it quits for the day.

Through his career Graeme showed entrepreneurial spirit. He was an early researcher of diabetes in pregnancy. With a colleague he brought the first laparoscope to New Zealand and hired it out to other surgeons. One of his proudest achievements was to pioneer vaginal hysterectomies in New Zealand, having made the procedure a focus of his sabbatical study overseas.

In the early 1980s, with thoughts turning to farming, the Sharps purchased land at Te Horo and the first thing they installed was a telephone in an old box by a lamp post in the middle of a paddock where Graeme could be reached if a patient was in labour. The younger children were told to listen for the phone and when needed Graeme would roar back to town in his MG, all the while planning each step of the operation that lay ahead. He was known to be a meticulous planner and constantly in search of better ways to do things, both in medicine and at the farm.

Not long after the move to Te Horo, Graeme became a full-time farmer but continued to spend his evenings reading medical journals.
When asked whether he wished he had been a farmer from the outset Graeme would say no. He thoroughly enjoyed O&G and was stimulated by the stress of it. He liked non-routine operations and procedures as they kept him on his toes.

Graeme is survived by his wife, Chris, four children,
11 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Shona Willis, NZ, journalist


Prof Ian Stewart Fraser

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Prof Ian Stewart Fraser, 79, in Sydney on 28 June 2022.

Ian dedicated his professional career to improving the health of women worldwide by teaching, training, research and advocacy, and to developing and mentoring others, particularly those involved in O&G. He was an authority in the field of Reproductive Medicine, pursuing a broad clinical and research career with particular interests in understanding and treating the very common disturbances of menstruation, menstrual pain, menopause and endometriosis.

Ian was born in Carlisle, England to Dr Ellis and Dr Stewart Fraser, and trained in medicine and O&G at the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford, before moving to the University of Sydney in 1975. He was the sixth generation to become a doctor in the Fraser family.

He was awarded his Doctorate of Science from Edinburgh University and was the only gynaecologist in Australia with this qualification. He also received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Sunderland.

Ian held a Personal Chair in Reproductive Medicine at the University of Sydney, and was Visiting Professor at Sunderland University and Conjoint professor (Reproductive Medicine) at the University of New South Wales. He was also Honorary Subspecialist in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

Ian was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia in the 2002 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Ian worked extensively with organisations devoted to the improvement of women’s health, holding high scientific advisory positions on contraception, abnormal uterine bleeding and endometriosis. He was Chairman of the World Health Organization Steering Committee on long-acting contraceptives, and a member of the United Nations Population Council’s International Committee for Contraception Research. One of his colleagues noted ‘women’s health is better, worldwide, because of Ian.’

He was Honorary Secretary of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), and chaired multiple committees that modernised the worldwide study and practice of O&G. One of his proudest achievements was his years-long work with other members of the FIGO Menstrual Disorders Working Group to address the confusing terminologies, definitions, and classifications of menstrual disorders. This work culminated in the simultaneous publication of key definitions in journals in different countries, which would lead to a uniform and clear understanding of the symptoms of menstrual disorders and of published research studies across the world.

Ian devoted great effort to raising the standards of women’s healthcare in Australia and ensuring that the standards of practice of Australia’s O&Gs are amongst the highest in the world. He was a founding Fellow and vice-president of the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, before he served as Foundation President of the newly created RANZCOG. To mark his presidency, he donated to RANZCOG a set of surgical instruments owned by Joseph Lister.

As one RANZCOG Fellow noted, ‘The College was very fortunate to have Prof Fraser’s wisdom at the amalgamation of RACOG with RNZCOG to form RANZCOG in 1998.’

He also helped Taronga, Adelaide and Melbourne Zoos to raise the standards of healthcare for primates, by advising on and inserting contraceptive devices into orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees.

He had a strong passion for teaching and nurturing the skills and experience of others. He supervised advanced training in reproductive medicine to gynaecologists across the world, and many of his former students and colleagues have paid tribute to his impact on them personally and their careers. A number commented that Ian saw something in them they didn’t see themselves; he encouraged them to pursue new challenges and mentored them as they did.

Ian co-authored over 500 scientific publications in various fields of reproductive medicine, including more than 400 original research papers in peer-reviewed journals.

Ian was a keen birder, combining it with his love of travel. He and Dorothy shared a love of opera and Formula One motor racing.

Ian leaves behind his wife, Dorothy, his daughters, Lindsay, Gael and Rowan, his grandchildren, Dylan, Cristyn, Zenobia, Edwina, Alexander, Ian and Carson, and his great-granddaughter, Arabella.

Rowan Fox, NSW, Prof Fraser’s daughter


Dr Neil Robert Johnstone

Neil spent his childhood and adolescence in Canterbury and Box Hill. He attended Canterbury State School before completing his secondary education at Camberwell High where he gained his matriculation certificate in 1961. In 1962 he started his medical degree at the University of Melbourne and became a registered medical practitioner at the end of 1967. After a year’s residency at the Alfred Hospital, he spent a year at The Royal Children’s Hospital. He then moved to The Royal Women’s Hospital, first as a resident, then as a registrar before joining the Professorial Unit as a second assistant. After gaining membership to the English College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, he spent two years in London, from 1974–76, as a senior registrar at West Middlesex Hospital. In 1976 he returned to Melbourne and started his private practice in O&G. He also gained employment at The Royal Women’s Hospital in 1976 in various positions in O&G. He completed his Masters in O&G at The University of Melbourne and was awarded the Arthur Nyulasy Prize for 1976.

In 2000 he retired from private practice after many years of caring for women, a career he found very fulfilling. He continued to work in clinical sessional positions at the Royal Women’s Hospital until 2008 when he resigned prior to the hospital’s relocation from Carlton to Parkville.

After retirement, Neil’s many interests and keenness to explore other fields kept him busy, teaching himself to write computer programs, of which he wrote many, exploring astronomy as well as continuing to read medical journals and books to broaden his general medical knowledge.

To the outside world he was a quiet, private person who shunned the limelight, but to his family and very close friends he was kind, gentle and funny.
He loved a good joke and delighted in cutting out silly little articles from the newspapers to show anyone who was interested, especially his children and their offspring.

He has left us all with very happy memories of a rather naughty but funny, irreverent person who
was certainly not ‘woke’.

He is survived by his wife, four children, nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Jean Johnstone, VIC, Dr Johnstone’s wife


Dr Thomas Guy Wright

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Dr Thomas Wright, aged 70, in Cairns, Qld on 28 February 2022.

After moving from his birthplace of England to Australia with his family, Tom attended high school in Cairns, before attaining his medical degree at the University of Queensland. He completed his O&G training in Sydney, before returning to work in Queensland for his consultant career, initially in Mackay, and then since 1991, back in Cairns.

Tom was a much loved and respected member of the Cairns community, both within and outside his profession. Those of us who remember being trained by Tom as young PHOs and registrars, fondly recall his ever calm and patient attitude, regardless of the time of day or night. To his colleagues, both junior and senior, he was a profound role model and mentor, always demonstrating the utmost compassion and care for his patients, and a meticulous attitude to procedural work. He also played an instrumental role for many years in teaching James Cook University medical students, including the very first cohort of students in 2004.

To the many women for whom he cared during his lifetime of service in O&G in Cairns, he was a much loved and trusted professional, who was responsible for delivering babies across generations for many families in Cairns. The level of esteem in which he was held by his patients and their families was evidenced by the hundreds of loving and thankful messages posted on social media at the time of his passing.

Tom treated everyone with whom he came into contact with respect, from patients and their families, to medical students, medical colleagues, midwives, nursing staff and other hospital colleagues, and always made others feel valued and welcome.

He is also fondly remembered by all for his sometimes rather eccentric activities, such as bursting into a rendition of ‘I’m a Little Teapot’, with actions of course, or his ability to perform handstands for unnaturally prolonged periods of time.

One of Tom’s well-known habits was to order breakfast for all of his postnatal women for the morning following their births. He always ordered a ‘double serving’ of bacon and eggs for each woman, so that when he went to see them the next day, he could avail himself of some of their breakfast whilst perching on their bed and having a chat.

Tom is survived by his beloved wife, Heike, his two sons Andrew and Simon, and their families. His absence leaves a gaping hole in the O&G community in Cairns, and the Cairns community at large. He will be sorely missed as both a colleague, and a friend to all.

Dr Samantha Scherman, QLD


Remembering our Fellows

Our College acknowledges the life and career of Fellows that have passed away:

  • Dr Richard Allan Speed, NZ
  • Dr Peter Alexander Scott, ACT
  • Mr Graeme Ralph Sharpe, NZ
  • Dr Christine Ann Ross, Qld
  • Dr Neil Robert Johnstone, Vic
  • Prof Ian Stewart Fraser, NSW
  • Dr Peter Heath, Vic
  • Dr Raymond Stanley Hyslop, NSW


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