Paddy Grattan-Smith 1921-2009

Paddy Grattan-Smith

Paddy Grattan-Smith was sometimes seen at a cricket match, holding up X-rays to the sun to study them. He was a key figure in the development of pediatric radiology in Australia and his clinical skills were highly valued, so X-rays were brought from all over Sydney to him, anywhere, any time.

The director of radiology at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children Camperdown for many years, he also served as president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists.

Padraic Grattan-Smith, who has died aged 87, was born in Sydney, second child and only son of Thomas (T.J.) Smith and his wife, Grace Lewis. T.J. was a member of the NSW Legislative Assembly, then the Legislative Council, and president of the NSW Fire Brigades Board. He decided, after a cheque had been embezzled, to give his children the name Grattan-Smith, taking Grattan from an Irish nationalist, Henry Grattan.

Paddy attended the Christian Brothers in Manly, with a final year at Waverley College. Although he claimed to have spent more time at sport than study, he matriculated at 15 and studied medicine at the University of Sydney, where he was awarded a blue for swimming and played first grade rugby.

Grattan-Smith graduated, completed his intern year in 1945 and was called up on August 15 - VJ Day. He was not at home in the RAAF, being voted officer most unlikely to succeed. His one decoration, he would say, was the NNN (Never North of Newcastle), although it was not gazetted. Enrolling in law to maintain his inner discipline, he was demobilised in 1951 and admitted to the bar in 1952, although he never practised.

In 1952 he re-entered medicine, at Newcastle Hospital. After a year of pathology, he joined the radiology department. He continued radiology as a registrar at Sydney Hospital in 1955, then the RAHC in 1956 and took his graduate diploma in diagnostic radiology from Sydney University in 1958. He was director of the radiology department at the RAHC from 1962 until 1967, when he entered private practice, although he remained a visiting radiologist at the hospital until 1985.

Grattan-Smith urged radiologists to discuss the patients' illnesses directly with the referring clinicians and become involved in clinical meetings. He was aware of the hazards of radiation and warned against nurses holding patients without adequate protection.

In the early 1960s a new sub-specialty, neonatology, was emerging and he assisted Dr Eric Burnard in commissioning the newborn research unit at the Women's Hospital in Crown Street.

Grattan-Smith's private practice was conveniently located between the Children's Hospital and the Honest Irishman Hotel in Camperdown. Clinical and medico-political discussions could be continued at either institution.

The practice was unusual in that Grattan-Smith supervised all aspects of patient care, from scheduling, technique setting, positioning, exposure and processing of each film. He administered every contrast injection, catheterised every child and performed every ultrasound. He loved his work so much that he did not take a holiday for the first 13 years.

He also accepted unpaid positions at Crown Street, St Margaret's and King George V hospitals, establishing audits of all newborn films, highly entertaining teaching sessions, and a 24-hour service for all three hospitals. He retired from his practice in 1989 but continued working as a radiology locum for another 10 years.

He was also active in medical politics. As secretary of the NSW Branch of the College of Radiologists, he was respected for his integrity, straight talking, fine negotiating skills and sense of humour. He referred to negotiations with government officials as being like "meeting with a relay race", as each meeting would involve a new set of bureaucrats. He was president of the college in 1987 and 1988 and was made a life member in 1999.

He married Mary Glynn in 1950. Her shrewd management skills allowed him to practise pediatric radiology with patience and compassion while remaining financially viable. Their hospitality and generosity were legendary. Many a visiting colleague, discovered to be at a loose end, was swept into the warmth of the family for a meal.

Paddy Grattan-Smith is survived by Mary, their seven children, 19 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Bruce Storey
By permission of the Sydney Morning Herald