Obituary - Dr Brian Eric Dwyer

Dr Brian Eric Dwyer

1925 to 2006

Dr Brian Dwyer was a pioneer of Australian anaesthesia, intensive care and pain management. He directed the Department of Anaesthetics at St.Vincent's Hospital, Sydney from 1955 to 1985. His career paralleled the establishment of anaesthesia as an independent specialty and he introduced all its major developments to the hospital: the post-operative recovery ward; the cardiopulmonary perfusion services (setting the scene for developments including the first Australian heart-transplant); the first pain management clinic outside the United States; the intensive care unit; the palliative care services.

Brian was an outstanding clinician, teacher and enthusiast for education, research and professional development. He was president of the Australian Society of Anaesthetists (1965 - 66) and was influential in commissioning its journal "Anaesthesia and Intensive Care" in 1972. He was Dean of the Faculty of Anaesthetists (1974-76) and Chairman of the Court of Examiners (1970-74). His services to medicine were recognised by the award of the Orton Medal in 1984, the Order of Australia in 1997 and an Honorary Fellowship of the Faculty of Pain Medicine in 2000.

Brian lived most of his life in Mosman, NSW, distinguishing himself from boyhood as a fine all-round sportsman and leader, captaining St Joseph's College first XI, earning a double Blue in cricket and baseball at Sydney University and playing cricket for New South Wales from 1946 to 1949. His intense interest in Anaesthesia, kindled during his three-year residency at Lewisham and Concord Hospitals, was encouraged in1950 at a test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground, where he chanced to meet Sir Robert Mackintosh, the first incumbent of the first chair of Anaesthesia in Europe. By 1951, he had married, worked his passage to England as a an assistant ship’s surgeon and was a member of the Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics in Oxford where he interacted with a number of outstanding teachers at a time of great development and innovation.

In 1955 he was head-hunted to become the first full-time Director of Anaesthesia in New South Wales. His innovations were not always welcomed, but “B.D” was no ordinary director. His diplomatic skills soon had everyone “eating out of his hand". His skills of captaincy, carefully honed on the cricket pitch, soon had him surrounded by team of exceptional professionals, selected with meticulous care, imbued with a sense of being valued and reciprocating with a loyalty, respect and affection, now reflected in the naming of the refurbished departmental premises as 'The Brian Dwyer Department of Anaesthetics'.

Brian had strong spiritual convictions and studied theology after retirement. He was accorded the papal honour of Knight Commander in the Order of St.Gregory the Great for his services to St Vincent's Hospital. In more temporal vein he was also honoured by Mosman Council for enthusiastic services to gardening in his local public spaces.

Brian Dwyer died in Sydney on June 7. He is survived by his wife Jacqueline, six children Nicholas, Julia, Dominic, Sophie, James and Vincent and ten grandchildren.

Professor David Gibb
Sydney, Australia

Full obituary originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald, July 2006.