John is a renowned Brisbane paediatrician and a much-loved mentor to several generations of Brisbane doctors. But the scope of his contributions extend far outside the wards of the Royal Children's Hospital and halls of the Medical School at Herston. The generous nature and quiet determination of this gentleman medico have taken him from research in the Arctic to the aftermath of a tsunami, from war in Vietnam to genocide in Rwanda.
He joined the Faculty of Medicine in January 1966, initially as Clinical Lecturer in Pathology and in 1968 was appointed Clinical Lecturer in Child Health. He received his higher Doctorate of Medicine in 1969, for work relating to his discovery of a new mammalian teratogen, indospicine. John has been the Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at The University of Queensland and the Royal Brisbane & Women's Hospital since 1986 and Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney since 1999. He has served as a doctor and educator across five continents.
John graduated from Medicine with honours in 1964 and signed up to the Australian Army's medical contingent in 1966. After serving in Vietnam and Papua New Guinea, he eventually became the Surgeon-General of the Defence Force. John spent time serving in the Arctic in 1978 conducting 'survival research' in conjunction with the Norwegian and British armies, and in 1994 he flew to Rwanda during the genocide emergency. The former Queensland Father of the Year (1994) has also worked in conjunction with the World Health Organisation and UNESCO on health issues.
As well as his international aid work, John has carried out lifesaving research into accidental deaths and worked closely with St John Ambulance Australia and the Royal Life Saving movement. In 2002, he was awarded the international Royal Life Saving Society's Medal for Meritorious Service in honour of his seminal work in the area of childhood drowning and prevention. He was also involved in the establishment of the first genetics clinic in Queensland.
In 1979, John was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), for distinguished service in paediatrics and other medical fields. In 2004, he joined the Australian Emergency Response Team to the Asian tsunami. The list of his prestigious offices and awards show his work and contributions are held in high regard throughout the world. He is a founder, later National President and currently Honorary Life Member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of the History of Medicine. He is a Member of the Committee of Management of the International Society of the History of Medicine, a Gold Medallist of the American Biographical Institute (for his services to medicine, history and medical ethics) and an Honorary Visiting Fellow of Green College, Oxford, United Kingdom.
John was named Senior Queenslander of the Year and The University of Queensland's 13th Alumnus of the Year in 2004. John retired as Professor of Paediatrics in 2005 and was appointed part-time Preceptor within the School of Medicine. This counselling role gave him a little more time for another passion that had previously taken a back seat to his medical and aid work - writing. He has written more than 600 papers; and 60 book chapters, books and textbooks relating to military and clinical medicine, medical history and life in general, including Genetics in Society, The Prevention of Childhood Accidents, Medicinal Herbs, A Little Book of Maxims, A Doctor in the Garden and Milestones of Australian Medicine.
In 2009, John was awarded an Order of Australia (AO) in the General Division in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. He received the award for service to medicine, particularly in the areas of paediatrics and medical ethics, to medical history, and to the community through injury prevention and first aid programs. In typical fashion, when interviewed about the award by the ABC, he is quoted as saying:
"One realises that such awards are very much team recognition, because professional people are never working in isolation," he said. "They're always linked up with wonderful nurses and therapists and researchers and school teachers and administrators - all those who work with children."