Saunders, Douglas M

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MB BS 1962 MD 1974 FRANZCOG FRCOG FRACS

Douglas Saunders established the first University Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the first specialised Fertility Clinic at Royal North Shore Hospital. His clinic achieved the first IVF pregnancy in NSW in 1982, and is one of the most successful in Australia. He is one of the founders of the Fertility Society of Australia.

Douglas graduated from Medicine at the University of Sydney and soon after, gained international research experience at Cornell University Medical School in New York. He returned in 1972 to set up the first University Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and the first specialised Fertility Clinic at Royal North Shore Hospital. He also completed his doctoral thesis at the University of Sydney (graduating in 1974) on Corpus Luteum Function, as it relates to infertility and fertility control.

Douglas successfully followed in the tradition of his two great predecessors, Professor Bruce Mayes and Professor Rodney Shearman, as Head of the Academic Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Sydney. He was the ‘complete’ academic with his widely recognised abilities and achievements in clinical medicine, teaching, mentoring of postgraduate students, research, administration, community service and collaboration with other departments and groups. He helped to nurture and shape the present academic culture of the Department through the establishment of an academic Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Royal North Shore Hospital’s Northern Clinical School, through a major contribution to the development of the Graduate Medical Program, and through the development of the Masters Degree in Reproductive Health Sciences and Human Genetics.

Douglas has had wide interests within reproductive medicine, but has achieved his major successes in the field of infertility. His clinic achieved the first IVF pregnancy in NSW in 1982, and is one of the most successful in Australia. He says of this time that there was an explosion of information in reproductive medicine, associated with patient demand brought about by the lack of babies available for adoption, and the shift in society with couples deferring childbearing until they were older and more likely to be infertile. Royal North Shore Hospital soon had 2500 couples on their waiting list for IVF. Douglas says, “there was suddenly a need for new societies, patient support groups, drugs and pharmaceutical companies, and new standards required for clinicians and clinical practice.”

Douglas helped found the Fertility Society of Australia, which is now in its 25th year, and became its third President. This Society grew out of the combination of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research Society, Donor Insemination Workshops, and the Australian Society for Reproductive Biology. It provided a multidisciplinary forum combining clinical services, rapidly changing research and even veterinary technology. In 2005, Douglas retired from his position as Chair of its Reproductive Technologies Advisory Committee, the accrediting body for all 83 Fertility Clinics in Australia and New Zealand, having been primarily responsible for reorganising this Committee and its procedures to ensure that it has comprehensive and relevant oversight of the quality of infertility services throughout Australia and New Zealand for the foreseeable future.

He was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) on the Queen’s Birthday honours List in 2001 for service to Medicine, particularly in the area of infertility, to the development of standards of practice and health care for women, and as a teacher, researcher and clinician.

Douglas retired from the Academic Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 2003 and, at the same time, retired from his Chair at the University of Sydney, based at Royal North Shore Hospital. On his retirement he was appointed Emeritus Professor.[1] He remains in clinical practice in reproductive medicine, and is Chair of the Research and Development Committee of IVF Australia. This organisation is a large Sydney-based infertility service, and supports research and teaching for the University of Sydney. Recently, IVF Australia was associated with the development of an embryonic stem cell line with the Juvenile Diabetes Unit at University of NSW.

His original clinic remains in operation and in 2005 alone, was associated with 550 IVF pregnancies in 2005.

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Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Saunders, Douglas M. 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.