Ray Lowenthal

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After leaving Fort Street I attended North Sydney Boys’ High School (1954-58). Memories from this time include doing Latin for 3 years (this probably conditioned me to be the zealous language pedant I am), coming second in the School Mile while in 4th Year, and having a very unpleasant time in the cadets — Army Life was not for me. I particularly recall joining a crowd outside the offices of the Sydney Morning Herald in Broadway late one November evening waiting for the Leaving Certificate results to be pasted up. There followed 6 years of Medicine at Sydney University and the Royal North Shore Hospital (1959-64). After graduation I did two Intern and Resident years also at RNSH, then 6 months of GP locums.

On 1967’s palindromic date I married Dianne Price (an RNSH nurse) and we immediately left Sydney on a one year adventure, travelling overland to London. Highlights of the trip include nearly being blown up while on a boat on the Mekong River in Laos (this was during the Vietnam War), climbing a mountain in Nepal at dawn one freezing October morning with Tibetan monks, travelling in mid-winter at -15 in the back of a truck with a group of stoned hippies in Afghanistan, not realising almost until the last minute that the bargaining I was doing in Iran was for the sale of my wife, being interrogated in a jail in Jordan, and nearly being killed by a lunatic driver in Yugoslavia.
Still, we survived to reach our goal. We then spent 7 years (1968-75) in the UK where I did postgraduate training including nearly 3 years at the Medical Research Council’s Leukaemia Unit at Hammersmith Hospital, London. Our first two children, Fiona and Bronwyn, were born during these years. Living in London gave us the opportunity to indulge an interest in live theatre and to visit Europe.

In 1975 we returned to Australia, to take up a position at the University of Tasmania in Hobart. We have been here ever since. We produced two more offspring, Alice and Andrew, and have found Tasmania a wonderful place to bring up children.

Professionally my current appointments (2006) are Director of the Department of Haematology & Oncology at the Royal Hobart Hospital (since 1985) and Clinical Professor at the University of Tasmania (1994). My research interests are mainly in leukaemia, lymphoma, bone marrow transplantation and clinical trials of new cancer treatments, and I have been an author of over 100 scientific papers. I have also written a guide book for the general public entitled Cancer: What to do about it.

I have been active in many state and national committees. For example, I was the first chairman of the Australian Leukaemia Study Group (1982-84). I have been President of the Tasmanian Branch of the Australian Medical Association (1996-98), a member of the Medical Council of Tasmania (1996-2004) and the inaugural chairman of The Cancer Council of Tasmania (1996-2001). From 2001 to 2004 I served as President of The Cancer Council Australia, spending time lobbying federal politicians. It was in this role that the dire plight of our Indigenous citizens came to the front of my mind and led me to convene a Cancer Council conference in Darwin on “Reducing the impact of cancer in Indigenous communities”.

In 2005 I was the recipient of the Medical Oncology Group of Australia’s Cancer Achievement Award and for 2005-06, I am the Bob Pitney Travelling Fellow for the Haematology Society of Australia & New Zealand. In the recent Queen’s Birthday honours list for 2006 I received a nice little gong by being made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) “for service to medicine in the fields of oncology and palliative care and as a clinician, educator, researcher and contributor to professional organisations at state and national levels”.

One of the privileges of being a semi-academic has been the opportunity to travel and work overseas. I have been fortunate to have spent periods of sabbatical leave in the USA, Germany, France and Israel. A highlight was travelling to Antarctica as ship’s doctor — twice. I retain a connection with the frozen continent as Chair of the Antarctic Division’s Human Research Ethics Committee'.

Outside work my interests include bushwalking in Tasmania, gardening, cooking, and playing real (or royal) tennis. I enjoy trying to speak and read other languages, especially French and German. We have a ‘shack’ with wallabies, possums and bandicoots an hour’s drive from Hobart to which I escape far too infrequently. I am also delighted that Fiona our oldest daughter has returned home to Hobart after many years overseas, blessed us with a gorgeous granddaughter, and soon will produce another. Especially when I consider the traumas my parents and their generation went through, life has been kind to me.

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