Graduation address given by Professor David Tiller AO

Professor David Tiller AO gave the following occasional address at the Faculty of Medicine graduation ceremony held at 9.30am on 11 May 2012 in the Great Hall. Professor Tiller is Associate Dean, Planning & Development, in the Faculty of Medicine.

Graduation address


Dean of the Faculty

Distinguished Faculty & Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

And most importantly all of you who are graduating today; to you particularly I address my remarks, first to congratulate you personally and to thank, on your behalf, mothers & fathers, sisters and brothers, partners, husbands and wives and of course the faculty members who sit behind me.

I wondered what I should say on this most important day and while I do remember who gave this address almost 50 years ago I have no memory of what was said.

So I thought I should tell a brief story and about a famous alumnus and discuss doors.

Doors you know about. Every day we go through them and they come in varied shapes and sizes, roller doors ,swing doors, round is popular and behind telephone box door almost anything can be found. Behind doors you find things that only your imagination limits.

I suggest that you go through doors.

In general keep them open behind you.

My story is about Arthur Edward Mills.

He is a famous alumnus of this University and Faculty and he demonstrates how doors do open and what happens when you go through them.

He was born in Mudgee in NSW in 1865 before it was a wine & music centre.

His father was a mining agent when gold was found between Gulgong & Mudgee and he and his sister went to a one teacher school.

Mills was clearly bright and at 16, became, what was known as a small school teacher. He was encouraged by Robert Hinder who taught in Mudgee and later became head of first Maitland and then Sydney Boys High School………when Hinder went to Sydney (two days by road) by the train that had been opened to serve the gold fields in 1863, he encouraged the young Mills to start teaching in Sydney, Mills did that but did not like the disobedient students.

So he undertook the Sydney University entrance exam, entered medicine and graduated with the class of 1889 with second class Honours…..

He then became one of the first four resident staff at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital across the creek from the University. One assumes he was able to walk across from the hospital to be involved in the Faculty’s activities.

Professor Wilson the Professor of Anatomy recognised his talent and invited him to become a Demonstrator in Anatomy.

At about the same time the Department of Physiology was struggling and for a brief time was involved in the teaching of Physiology as a Demonstrator.

Early in his clinical years he developed an interest in children long before any sub-group of paediatricians was thought of. The Hospital for Sick Children was established in 1868. Now the Westmead Children’s Hospital.

Then according to John Young’s history of the Faculty he married, became impecunious, and set up practice in Picton.

Why Picton is unknown. The Queen Victoria Hospital for TB was there where TB patients spent time in the open air, but perhaps it was because his family had moved there for the mining activities and living with his parents was cheap.

Picton at that time was the railhead for the main line that would eventually link Sydney & Melbourne.

It seemed that a year in Picton was enough.

He spent more time in Sydney and in 1901 set up practice & became a lecturer in Diseases of Children. He moved to Strathfield, much more salubrious than Picton and one assumes a more rewarding place to practice.

In 1910 he became a Lecturer in the Principles & Practice of Medicine.

In 1920 Scott Skirving, died; the Professor of Physiology returned to Edinbrugh and Mills was offered the Deanship of the Faculty.

Being the Dean he became a member of the University Senate and finally became Deputy Chancellor.

He retired in 1930 and died in 1940 while working in his Macquarie St practice.

He was much remembered for his clinical teaching and expertise.

So from Mudgee at a one teacher school to Deputy Chancellor of the University and Dean of the Faculty.

My particular interest in Mills is that he was a part of group that founded the Association of Physicians of Australia & New Zealand and became a Foundation Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physiians when it was formed in 1938.

I think he opened at least 20 doors between becoming a teacher in small schools and the Deputy Chancellor of this University.

An extraordinary journey.

An exciting journey.

You are at the beginning of your next journey.

Please open the doors & go through.

Congratulations again.