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Biographical entry Mortensen, Peter James (1926 - 2007)

FRCS 1953; MB BS Melbourne 1949; FRACS.

15 May 1926
Yarrawonga, Victoria, Australia
28 September 2007
Urological surgeon


Jim Mortensen was a urological surgeon in Melbourne, Australia. He was born in Yarrawonga, Victoria, Australia, on 15 May 1926, the only child of Henry Newman Mortensen and Lorna née Bray, who were both general practitioners. His father went to England in the early 1930s to specialise in surgery and passed the FRCS Edinburgh, returning in 1937 to Melbourne to found the urological unit at St Vincent's Hospital. He was also president of the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand on three occasions and, in 1964, was the first Australian to be made an honorary member of British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS). His mother Lorna specialised in anaesthetics, was a Nuffield scholar at Oxford and subsequently returned to the Royal Melbourne Hospital as a consultant anaesthetist. Jim was educated by the Jesuits as a boarder at Xavier College, where he rowed in the first VIII and became a school prefect. He studied medicine at Melbourne University, residing at Newman College.

After qualifying, he was a resident at St Vincent's Hospital, where he received permission to marry at the end of 1950. After three years as a resident he went to England, to work at St Peter's Chertsey, where he passed the FRCS.

He returned to Melbourne as assistant urologist on his father's unit. In 1959 he won the Babcock travelling fellowship to Ann Arbor, Michigan, then led by Reed Nesbit, the doyen of transurethral resection. There he learned the new Bricker technique of ileal conduit urinary diversion.

He returned to St Vincent's in 1966 to become head of the department, remaining in charge until he retired in 1988. Under his leadership St Vincent's became one of the leading urological units in the world, developing transplant surgery in the 1960s and installing the first extracorporeal lithotriptor in Australia. He was also consultant urologist to Williamstown and Box Hill hospitals from 1957 to 1973, worked at Swan Hill District Hospital from 1970 until he retired in 1994, and also worked in Indonesia and India, encouraging young surgeons from those countries to visit St Vincent's. In 1969 Jim followed his father by becoming president of the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand.

An excellent golfer and tennis player, Jim enjoyed reading, music and his garden. For a time he bred Murray Grey cattle, and he and Margot (née Collins) made several trips by Land Rover to central and Western Australia to see wild flowers in the outback.

He and Margot had a long and happy marriage, with eight children and 18 grandchildren. By a sad irony he succumbed to cancer of the prostate which led to spinal cord compression from a metastasis. He died on 28 September 2007.

John Blandy

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Peter Henry Mortensen FRACS; Newsletter of the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand, Autumn 2008].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England