Lancaster, Paul Angus Llewellyn

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MB BS 1966 MPH 1979 (UCLA Berk) MRACP FRACP FAFPHM

Paul Lancaster was the founding Director of the National Perinatal Statistics Unit in 1979 and in 1983, established the world’s first national register of IVF pregnancies. In 1991 he initiated an international program to monitor IVF and steered the establishment of the International Centre for Birth Defects in Bergen, Norway. In 1994, he instigated the Master’s in Reproductive Health Sciences and Human Genetics within the Faculty.

Born in Sydney in 1941, Paul Lancaster studied medicine at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1966. He trained in paediatrics, completing residencies at the Liverpool District Hospital and at the Prince of Wales Hospital. He continued at the Prince of Wales Hospital, first as a Paediatric Registrar from 1968 to 1970 and then as a Pathology Registrar.

In 1971, Lancaster became a Senior Research Officer in the School of Paediatrics at the University of New South Wales in a project studying the causes of low birth-weight, especially the influence of smoking in pregnancy. In 1973 he was appointed Staff Specialist Paediatrician and Director of Newborn Services at the Royal Hospital for Women, a position in which he remained until 1977. He was also appointed as a Clinical Lecturer in Neonatal Paediatrics and taught midwifery trainees at the Royal Hospital for Women. Paul then spent two years as a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Fellow in Applied Health Sciences at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and at the University of California School of Public Health in Berkeley, completing a Master of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health in 1979.

On his return to Sydney in October 1979, he became the founding Director of the National Perinatal Statistics Unit, first based at the University of Sydney then, much later, at the University of New South Wales. “This took me from the wonderful camaraderie of my previous hospital setting to a more challenging, yet unpredictable, career in public health”, says Paul. In this role, which he filled until 2001, he regularly participated in international meetings on birth defects, and led the creation of the International Centre for Birth Defects, now based in Rome.

In his work as a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist, Paul set up the national Birth Defects Monitoring Program and in 1983 established the world’s first national register of IVF pregnancies. He also coordinated national reports on mothers and babies in Australia, on indigenous mothers and babies, and on reproductive health.

In 1990 he also initiated the international group that monitors assisted conception (IVF), now known as the International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ICMART), which he chaired for a decade.

In 1980 he began postgraduate teaching in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at the University of Sydney and tutoring medical undergraduates, becoming Senior Lecturer in 1981 and Associate Professor in 1991. After coordinating the reproductive, maternal and child health courses for MPH students in the 1980s, Paul initiated (in 1994) the now thriving Master’s course in Reproductive Health Sciences and Human Genetics at the University of Sydney.

In 1997, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Perinatal Statistics Unit was transferred to the University of New South Wales.

Lancaster has been on the Executive Committee of the International Clearinghouse for Birth Defects Monitoring Systems, serving two four-year terms as Vice-Chairperson, and becoming Chairperson from the late 1980s to early 1990s. Until recently, he was a member of the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Human Genetics. He was also President of the Australian Birth Defects Society from 1998–2001, reassuming this role in more recent years.

Paul remains active in his field, teaching part-time, organizing conferences on birth defects and reproductive and perinatal health, writing book chapters, and speaking at national and international conferences. He is an Honorary Associate Professor at the Northern Clinical School, University of Sydney. He is currently on the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ICMART), the Australian Twin Registry Advisory Board, and the Medical and Scientific Panel of the Infertility Treatment Authority of Victoria. It remains his professional ambition to participate in the education of “schools and the community about reproductive health, specifically to reverse the worldwide trend of delayed child-bearing – no small task!” In addition, he has commenced work on a biography of Sir Norman Gregg and other work on the depiction of reproduction in international art.

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Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Lancaster, Paul Angus Llewellyn. Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive, University of Sydney.

An alternate version appears in: Mellor, L. 150 Years, 150 Firsts: The People of the Faculty of Medicine (2006) Sydney, Sydney University Press.