Esteemed Sydney Medical School alumni make a huge contribution to Nepean healthcare

Eileen Cammack

The esteemed, Eileen Cammack

William Cammack

A young officer, William Cammack


“They had so much energy. They didn’t need sleep; they lived on the elixir of life!” Dr Reginald Cammack, son.

Bill and Eileen Cammack were a remarkable couple and received several honours in recognition of their distinguished medical careers and community service.

Dr Bill Cammack (OAM) and his wife, Dr Eileen Cammack (OBE) both enjoyed an excellent education, from good schools on the north shore through to the University of Sydney, where they met whilst studying medicine at Sydney Medical School. Eileen already had a degree in Science, majoring in Botany and Geology. Their interests and talents were abundant: from art to sport, botany to music – Bill was awarded not one but two University Blues (Cricket and Hockey) and Eileen studied piano at the Conservatorium of music and played the University carillon in the Quadrangle Clock Tower. They graduated in 1940 and married in 1944.

When the World War II broke out they put their own interests aside, sacrificing their chosen medical specialties to be trained in the areas of need for soldiers, Bill in Orthopaedics and Eileen in Pathology and Tropical Medicine. Patriots to the core, they both enlisted as Captains and served in the Australian Army Medical Corps. Eileen served at several Australian General Hospitals and became the only female doctor serving in a hospital in a forward area. These young graduates were thrust into battle, where they had to learn to cope with extreme conditions. Bill recalls when he was told to discharge 75 patients from his orthopaedic ward to make way for a convoy from Papua New Guinea, which was his introduction to malaria, “We had to quickly learn how to deal with things; it often required ingenuity."

Bill also served at Tarakan Borneo where he treated allied soldiers, Japanese prisoners-of-war and civilians too. There he was known for his bravery, unflappable nature and kindness. One Japanese villager gave Bill a special gift as a sign of his appreciation for Bill’s humanitarian medical care, a beautiful gold and ruby ring which regrettably was stolen from their family home at Penrith years later.

Both doctors loved their work, were dedicated and made an immense contribution to the healthcare of Penrith, at the time a country town. Bill established a General Practice and went in partnership with alumnus Dr Harry Uren (MBBS 1933), and with no specialist physicians or surgeons in the area for many years, their work was varied, from delivering over 10,000 babies to treating trauma patients, such as car accident victims. Bill’s son Reginald, an anesthetist at Concord Hospital for many years, recalls: “Dad was the old-school GP and would think nothing of driving many miles out to his patients in the middle of the night, using unsealed winding roads to attend to someone in need. And you know what, Mum would be up waiting for him; I remember her often gardening at night by lantern light."

Like many doctors, honouring the Hippocratic Oath, Bill Cammack educated other health professionals, such as giving lectures to nurses at Nepean Hospital and the VAD Red Cross. He was also appointed Commonwealth Medical Officer for the Nepean district.

Utilizing her skills from her Army training Eileen set up a private pathology practice and was the only Pathologist west of Parramatta for 25 years after the war. She was also honorary pathologist at Nepean Hospital from 1948 and at the request of the hospital, established the first pathology laboratory at both Windsor and Nepean District Hospitals – and pathology remains an area of strength to this day at the University’s clinical school at Nepean. Eileen became State Government Medical Officer for the Nepean District from 1961 and Police Surgeon, serving in these roles for 30 years. She was also honorary pathologist and life governor of Governor Phillip Special Hospital and co-founder of Jamison Private Hospital. Both Eileen and Bill have a list of firsts in medical care at Nepean.

Eileen had other talents and interests too. Passionate about looking after the rights of the under-dog and a natural orator and debater, she utilized these passions and talent to serve in government. Eileen was the Liberal Party candidate for Penrith during 1973 and 1976 State elections and served as Alderman for the Penrith City Council from 1972 – 1991. She was elected the first female Mayor of Penrith Council (1975 – 1978) and remains the only woman to have served three terms.

Eileen also had a passion for children, anybody’s children. Daughter Mary Burston (nee Cammack and Law graduate from Sydney) remembers: “Mummy would take in children at Christmas, sometimes four at a time, to look after them until the mother got back on her feet again.” And recorded in Who’s Who of Australian Women, 1982 she is quoted saying, “I have tried to help those less fortunate than myself. I would like to see greater affection between children and their parents in order that the children may be able to discuss their troubles and anxieties with their parents… and handle the problem that beset them.”

The Cammack children remember their parents as community minded, selfless leaders, willing to step-up to meet the need, giving their time and money to charity. Dr Reginald Cammack fondly remembers Bill's dedication to the disenfranchised and disadvantaged. “When Father was younger he was into everything and always helping people. He frequently gave medical care for free to those who could not afford his fee, and when they could, they would return the favour with a box of fruit." And Bill himself said about Eileen, “She was too busy, ever with no thought of herself, always championing the underdog and answering with appropriate action the innumerable calls for help from all layers of society.”

With a passionate interest for traveling and inquisitive by nature, they enjoyed seeing other cultures; coupled with a love for the arts, they accumulated an extensive and eclectic collection of painting and decorative artifacts, much of it sourced from their exotic travels – they were amongst the first to enter China when it opened to tourism. Their art treasures include paintings from New York, furniture from Italy, porcelain from Spain, silver from England, jade from the China and ivory from India.

Eileen’s love of botany was expressed through the development of magnificent gardens on their five acre home, Mountain Mists, where blue and white peacocks would parade or where Eileen would entertain, and cater for a BBQ for 100 guests.

Bill is 98 years and unfortunately his health is failing him. Eileen passed away several years ago, but until that time they both served on numerous local societies and were patrons to some 30 charities, sporting, cultural and business organizations. They were amongst the organizers of their medical school class reunions and donated to support the University of Sydney’s Cricket Club Foundation and the Sydney Medical School Anatomy and Histology Fund to support medical research and education. This couple always wanted to be the best doctors that they could be, and generously supported others to advance their research and clinical practice.

As patrons to the arts, active participants in sport and supporters of their clubs and charities and dedicated doctors, Bill and Eileen Cammack have undeniably made a wonderful contribution to Penrith and the Nepean district and they will be remembered for a long time in the medical and general community for their pioneering contributions.

Generous Gift from Rotary Club of Penrith, 2014

Funds raised by Rotary purchase research equipment

Generous Rotary gift furthers research at Nepean

In February 2014, the Rotary Club of Penrith (Inc.) generously hosted an event to farewell the Patron of the Nepean Medical Research Foundation, outgoing Governor, Her Excellency Professor The Honourable Dame Marie Bashir, Dame of the Order of Australia, Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.

The organisation of this event was ably assisted by the efforts of several volunteers and staff of the Nepean Medical Research Foundation, and we would like to give special thanks to Mrs Gwen McMaster-Fay, President of the NMRF at the time, and Deanna Melbin, Manager of the NMRF also at the time. At that event the community and attendees raised funds over $20,000 for the Nepean Medical Research Foundation.

The funds raised at the event were donated by Rotary Club of Penrith to the Nepean Medical Research Foundation which then purchased, on the doctors’ behalf, cutting edge research equipment to be used at the Sydney Medical School Nepean’s laboratories, located on level 5 of the Nepean Public Hospital. The medical research equipment included a fridge to store scientific samples, and a nano-drop, to measure tiny amounts of chemical substances. These items have now been installed and our scientific investigators will have full use of these items to advance research for tomorrow’s treatments.

An example of research being conducted is by Stephen Fuller, Associate Professor of Medicine, who specializes in haematology malignancy (cancer of the blood) to determine the cause of cancers like leukaemia, by examining the expression of genes in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia cells and the identification of genes responsible for familial predispositions to haematological malignancies.

It is the foresight and generosity of philanthropists such as the Rotary community at Penrith, that ensures that Sydney Medical School Nepean remains a place of research excellence. Thank you Rotarians for your ongoing support.

TRIBUTE TO PROFESSOR SIRUS NARAQI

sirus naraqi

The Late Professor Sirus Naraqi

Professor Sirus Naraqi came to the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Sydney in 1998 as Associate Dean of our Western Clinical School at Nepean Hospital. He has an enviable international reputation with more than 100 published scientific and medical papers and publications in areas of clinical virology, infectious diseases and internal medicine, and over 70 scientific presentations. All this in spite of consistently heavy teaching and clinical loads.

His motivation and commitment to health care, research and training have been underpinned by his Baha’i faith, a religion whose fundamental aim is the promotion of the oneness of humanity and which considers work in the spirit of service to others as equivalent to worship to God. Listing the splendid array of Professor Naraqi’s interests and achievements is impressive in its spread and depth, but such a list alone is inadequate to convey the full range of his activities, his influence and his zest for living.

His professional awards and achievements are vast and diverse in scope, with an interest in infectious diseases and an equally strong humanistic desire to serve in areas of greatest need, such as Papua New Guinea, where he took up the Chair of Medicine at the University in 1983, following an initial stint there in the late seventies. During his time at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) major research projects were conducted on severe forms of malaria, snake bite and meningitis, resulting in the international recognition of the Faculty PNG doctors and publication of numerous scientific papers in international journals. The legacy of Professor Naraqi’s leadership and inspiration at UPNG over 15 years included enormous progress in the number and quality of local consultant physicians, top University and Health Department positions reached by PNG nationals and an increase in medical registrars.

For this service to PNG’s health needs he was awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 1998.

Born in Persia on September 30, 1942 he worked for a short time as general practitioner for the army to fulfil his military obligations before immigrating to the United States in 1969, where he completed postgraduate training at The University of Chicago and The University of Illinois, followed by numerous consultant physician and academic appointments.

Professor Naraqi is many things to many people. First and foremost he is the husband of Mitra and father of four – Ladan, Naysan, Anisa and Gulita, who grew up in PNG. The elder children have undertaken postgraduate studies in America, one following in his medical footsteps, the other in communications and media.

He is also a well loved academic among medical students who have respected his dedication to his profession and his generosity of spirit in the training and mentoring of professionals. He didn’t do this for effect or popularity – he just believed in the worthiness of the work and the value of the human engagement. That’s the sort of world citizen he is – he gave respect spontaneously and received it in turn.

His involvement in community service has included consistent participation in public debate; services to the World Health Organisation in the areas of tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS, research and rural health issues facing PNG; literacy, international human rights, hygiene and nutrition for the underprivileged.

Professor Naraqi has received many awards recognizing his professional excellence including Best Teacher of the Year, Best Attending Physician and Fellow of both the American and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and member of the American Board of Infectious Diseases.

As a leader of institutions and organisations he has served on countless committees. Sirus’s focus was able to range easily from global through to small scale local concerns. He made special efforts to encourage emerging health and research professionals in developing countries to build upon their own national strengths and heritages.

From the very beginning of his academic life when Sirus was ranked number one student from over 80,000 candidates at his university and medical school entrance exams to his final position of Professor and Associate Dean at Western Clinical School his natural integrity, humanity and enthusiasm was evident in every action. Fundamentally he has a humanist belief in the ability of people to transform their world through courage, creativity and good will – he has been an optimist and a motivator. His Baha’i-inspired moral values and social principles suffused all his endeavours, whether with family, patients, educators, students or the lay public.

Professor Naraqi had the visionary eye, seeing better futures as being realisable. At this sad time in his life, due to illness; and to mark his retirement, we, his family, University friends and colleagues and students join in celebrating a life well lived in the perpetual service of others. His great contribution to medical research, training and knowledge will live on for generations to come.

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