Austin Health Medical Alumni Association
The AHMAA regrets the recent deaths of three of our esteemed Alumni, 
Dr David Harding, Mr John Buntine and Mr Rodney Syme

The following Obituaries acknowledge their contributions to Austin Health and the wider medical community.

We will remember them.

Emeritus Associate Professor Gwynne W Thomas   OAM
Austin Health Medical Alumni Association.



David Leslie Harding
2 December 1941 – 27 September 2021

It is with much sorrow that we announce the sudden death of our dear friend and esteemed medical colleague David Harding.
David studied medicine at the University of Melbourne and then undertook further studies to become a member, then fellow of the RACP.
David came to the Austin hospital in the 1970s as a physician to the Professorial Unit with Prof. Austin Doyle and later Prof. Colin Johnston.
He then became a senior physician and headed his own Unit.
David was a true general physician and his exemplary knowledge extended over many sub-specialities. He was very active in teaching at the Austin, both of medical students and registrars studying for their fellowship exams. David was always ready to help, pointing out interesting patients, and readily answering questions. Throughout his time at the Austin David was involved in a number of committees including the Senior Medical Staff Association.
David's enduring legacy includes the excellence of his patient care. He was a pioneer of peri-operative care and widely respected for his skill, good humour and gentle touch.
He was loved by his patients, widely respected by all and will be remembered with affection by his medical colleagues and friends.
David will be sadly missed and our sympathy goes to his wife, children and extended family.

Obituary written by Adrianne Anderson

John Allan Buntine
4 April 1934 - 6 October 2021
John attended Melbourne High School where, in the final year, he gained the Exhibition in Biology, first class honors in Physics and Chemistry and a Senior State Government Scholarship in addition to a Commonwealth Scholarship to attend the University of Melbourne where he graduated MBBS in 1957. He had gained an Exhibition in Physiology and Biochemistry, was a Prosector and had achieved honours in most subjects. John became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in early 1962.
John's general surgery training at the Royal Melbourne Hospital commenced under Weary Dunlop and his Plastic Surgery and Hand Surgery training commenced under Sir Benjamin Rank. He gained a scholarship from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons to work on wound healing at the Royal College of Surgeons of England as the Edward Lumley Surgical Research Fellow, during which time he lived with his wife Norma and young children on the grounds of Charles Darwin's property in Kent.

He was a Mark's Fellow at the renowned Plastic Surgery Unit at East Grinstead where Mcindoe had developed split skin grafting to treat pilots burned in the Battle of Britain. John trained at the Hospital's leading burns unit following which he returned to Melbourne as a ship's doctor on the Fair Sky.

John was President of the Australian Association of Surgeons (AAS) for several years, Vice President of AMA Victoria, several times a Surgeons' Representative to the AMA National Conference, President of the Australian Hand Surgery Society and Surgeon in Charge of the Plastic Surgery unit of The Austin Hospital and then of the Box Hill Hospital. At the Austin Hospital John performed innovative tendon transfer procedures for quadriplegic arms and skin repairs for paraplegics.

While chairman of the Victorian AAS, John encouraged the establishment of Medical Panels for Victorian Worker's Compensation and campaigned to prevent the introduction of USA style managed care in Australia at the time of Columbia HCA's intended part purchase of Epworth Hospital.

John was active in the World Health Organisation and worked and taught surgery in West Africa treating the severe "flesh eating" Mycobacterium ulcerans infection. John was the first surgeon to fully appreciate the curative role of antibiotic treatment of the disease and combined this treatment with surgical procedures to achieve significantly improved outcomes. He continued this work in Melbourne where the disease is again active at the present time.
John was actively involved in teaching plastic surgery in Melbourne where he maintained busy public and private surgical practices and in recent years, he worked as a consultant providing medico-legal reports for WorkSafe and private legal companies. In 2019 John was awarded the Bruce Shepherd Medal for outstanding contribution to independent medicine.
Obituary written by Norma and Anthony Buntine


Rodney Syme
23 August 1935 – 20 October 2021

It is with great sadness, but with admiration for a life well filled, that we mourn the death of Rodney Syme, a colleague admired and respected by all who knew him.
Rodney was born into the ultimate Australian surgical family. His grandfather Sir George Syme was the foundation president of the R.A.C.S., and his father Robert Syme a highly respected general surgeon. He was also a descendent of David Syme the founder the of the Melbourne newspaper The Age, which was unique at the time of its creation for championing the ethics of universal suffrage and free compulsory education, in a preconception of Rodney’s own principled commitment.
After completing training in General Surgery and gaining additional experience in Urology locally under the mentorship of Harold Story, he worked in London at the Whittington Hospital. He returned to Melbourne where in 1969 was appointed as a urologist to the Austin Hospital, and in 1976 to the Repatriation Hospital in Heidelberg. Upon their merger he became the first director of the combined urology department from 1996 -2001. 
Although a highly skilled technician and one of the first urologists to undertake TURP in Australia, Rodney became best known for his intellectual and ethical approach to medical practice. To each trainee he demonstrated how every complex problem in urology was to be dissected into its component parts, be they anatomic, physiologic or social. His emphasis on questioning the validity of radical prostatectomy for low volume low grade prostate cancer that was becoming increasingly apparent in the novel era of widespread PSA testing lead to the formation of the Victorian Radical Prostatectomy Registry, a precursor to what functions nationally now as the Prostate Cancer Outcomes Registry.
Rodney’s perpetual efforts to better the ethical constructs of his surgical practice culminated in his commitment to voluntary assisted death for terminally ill patients, which came to define his life after retirement from urology. Notably this determination to reduce the suffering of others was developed based on his experience of men with bony metastases from prostate cancer. He founded Dying with Dignity Victoria, wrote the book “A Good Death” and became a passionate and articulate advocate for the rights of patients in such settings. He undertook to advise such terminally ill individuals often at significant risk to himself.
On an episode of the panel show Q&A debating voluntary assisted dying he declared that he was aware advising patients on how to end their own life could carry a jail term, admitted to having done so, and advised the police to come and arrest him if they felt the law could be prosecuted. In an episode of the program “Australian Story” devoted to him he noted that the driving force for his commitment to this cause was solely that his conscience directed him.
The “Dying with Dignity” legislation he championed was ultimately legalised by the Victorian Parliament, and in other states. He received numerous awards including The USANZ society medal, Australian Humanist of the Year, a nomination as Senior Australian of the year, and an AM which he returned in protest against the views of Margaret Court.
Above all Rodney was never motivated by avarice or ego, but only by compassion for others and a desire to better society. He thought hard to justify what he knew in his heart to be appropriate for the community, and pursued such aims even to his own detriment. His socially progressive views were ahead of their time. Rodney was a person unique for the personal strength, ethical wisdom and commitment to his views that he brought to urology.
Our society is a sadder place for the loss of a true leader who garnered the respect of all.
Obituary written by Damien Bolton and David Webb

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Austin Health Medical Alumni Association, Austin Health · PO Box 5555 · Heidelberg, Vic 3084 · Australia