Lighting the way

UQ celebrates 80 years of Medicine

If walls could talk then the red bricks of The University of Queensland’s Mayne Medical School would have some fascinating tales to share.

The heritage-listed medical school is deeply rooted in the state’s history – home to Queensland’s first complete medical program.

One can only imagine the pride felt by the first cohort of medical students to pass between massive doric columns into the hallowed halls beneath the copper dome.

Most of the medical program’s 13,000 graduates walked these corridors, perhaps discussing medical developments which would one day change the world.

The establishment of Queensland’s first medical school was largely thanks to Ernest Sandford Jackson, Ernest James Goddard, James Vincent (JV) Duhig and Errol Solomon Meyers.
Collectively known as the ‘Founders’, they were instrumental in lobbying the Forgan Smith government to proceed with construction.

The Faculty of Medicine had been established by the university in 1936.

The inaugural cohort attended classes in various hastily adapted buildings across the city, until the construction at Herston was completed.

The building was designed in the Renaissance style by Raymond C. Nowland, Chief Architect in the Department of Public Works. It was a time when the government was encouraging infrastructure projects to keep the economy ticking over and unemployment at bay.

Nowland designed 11 buildings for Queensland, and all are now heritage-listed.

Three were medical buildings in Brisbane and all featured decorative lamps at their entrance.

The school was named after benefactors James and Mary Emelia Mayne.

May all members of the community profit
by the art and skill of those who learn,
with deference and respect,
their profession in this place.”

Since those early days, generations of the state’s doctors have started their medical careers at UQ.

The University of Queensland is celebrating 80 years of Medicine in 2016, providing an opportunity to reflect on UQ’s distinguished history of health and medical leadership.

A gala dinner celebrated the milestone, with more than 600 guests converging on City Hall.

The event showcased family connections among alumni, including families with three generations of medical graduates.

Among those present were members of the Duhig family, descendants of James Vincent (JV) Duhig, one of the ‘Founders’ and a strong advocate for vaccination.

He was UQ’s inaugural Professor of Pathology (1938–47).

A dozen of his extended family across three generations have studied medicine, and six have gone on to specialise in pathology.

From left: Pathologists Dr Edwina Duhig, Dr Rod Conrad,Dr Robert Duhig and Dr James Duhig.

From left: Pathologists Dr Edwina Duhig, Dr Rod Conrad,
Dr Robert Duhig and Dr James Duhig.

The laboratory was a familiar environment for family members who created one of the greatest medical dynasties from any one specialty in Australia.

Since its inception, the program has grown to become a global medical school.

It is now Australia’s largest medical program with nine state-of-the-art clinical schools.

Close links with Brisbane’s major hospitals and with health services throughout the state ensure that students are at the forefront of clinical teaching and practice.

Cutting-edge facilities such as the $25 million Herston Imaging Research Facility and labs in the Translational Research Institute are also helping attract world-class researchers.

The school’s reach has also extended internationally, with clinical schools in New Orleans (USA) and Brunei offering medical students a unique opportunity to be part of a global medical school experience.

The Mayne Medical School building remains the ancestral home of the program, and many of its original features have been maintained.

Staff and students still tread the terrazzo flooring and steady themselves on the carved silky oak hand rails if the historic (but not always reliable) lift happens to be out of order.

They enter under the Latin motto Cum pietateet sanctitate hanc artem meam profitebor’ - 'May all members of the community profit by the art and skill of those who learn, with deference and respect, their profession in this place.'

Many of the corridors are lined with cabinets displaying items from the Marks-Hirschfeld Museum of Medical History – everything from early blood-letting apertures and prosthetics to chloroform masks and bed pans.

There’s even a prin- out of the heartbeat of Neil Armstrong as he took his first steps on the moon. (Who wouldn’t be excited or apprehensive at that point?)

The cabinets provide a fascinating insight into how far medicine has come, and UQ has played a significant role in developing the research and technology that has benefited patients around the globe.

When the Founders plotted this far-sighted venture they were adamant the Mayne Medical School building should reflect its import.

They suggested that "a simple Greek front with double columns on either side of the main entrance porch would give the building a more dignified and characteristic appearance and would look better and more striking from a distance".

The edifice which stands at Herston is their enduring legacy.