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Biographical entry Officer, Robert (1906 - 1959)

MRCS and FRCS 13 October 1938; MB BS Melbourne 1931; FRACS 1940.

12 August 1906
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
22 September 1959
Canterbury, Victoria, Australia
General surgeon


Born at Perth, Western Australia on 12 August 1906 son of Edward Officer (MB Melbourne 1897) of Beechworth, Victoria, he was educated at Hale School, Perth and Ormond College, Melbourne University, winning a triple "blue" for football, rowing, and athletics. He qualified in 1931 and served as resident medical officer (1932) and medical and surgical registrar (1933) at the Alfred Hospital. He came to Guy's Hospital for postgraduate study, and was appointed resident surgical officer at St Mark's Hospital for diseases of the rectum (1936-37) and at the Guest Hospital, Dudley (1938). He went back to Melbourne in 1939.

Officer made a distinguished place for himself at St Mark's Hospital, inventing a toothed dissecting forceps named after him, and devising a two-way transfusion drip bulb which was kept in use thereafter and proved invaluable in reducing mortality in the operation for abdomino-perineal resection of the rectum. He also introduced a modification, which promptly became the current practice at St Mark's and elsewhere, of Salmon's ligature operation for haemorrhoidectomy.

At the Alfred Hospital he was associate to the surgeon to in-patients, Fay McClure whose pupil he had been. McClure influenced him profoundly, they became close friends, and he succeeded McClure as surgeon to the Hospital in 1946. Meanwhile he had been actively concerned in the war effort. He was commissioned in the AAMC in 1939 and served in the first Western Desert campaign in North Africa and was present at the victory of Bardia as a Captain at the 2/1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station. He subsequently served in Syria and devised an excellent system for blood storage in the field. He was promoted Major in 1942, serving with No 117 Australian General Hospital. In the dark year 1943 he was recalled to Australia to supervise the use and supply of penicillin in the war services, and in 1944-45 was Lieutenant-Colonel at 2/9 General Hospital. After the war he was appointed (1948) consultant surgeon to the Australian Army with the rank of Colonel.

When he returned to civil practice in 1945 he soon assumed a leading place in the surgical profession of Australia. He rapidly acquired a very large private practice and was active in professional affairs. He was elected to the Victoria State Committee of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1946, and to the Council in 1955. He was sub-dean of the Clinical School at the Alfred Hospital 1948-57. He was appointed an honorary surgeon to the Governor-General of Australia in 1950 and to the Queen in 1953, just before Her Majesty's Commonwealth tour.

Officer married in 1943 Olive Adele Catford who survived him with two daughters. He died on 22 September 1959 aged 52 at Canterbury, Victoria. Bob Officer was a swarthy man of powerful build, who inspired confidence.

Principal publications:
Surgical anatomy of the anal canal and the operative treatment of haemorrhoids, with E T C Milligan, C Naunton Morgan and L E Jones. Lancet 1937, 2, 1119.
Blood storage on active service. AustNZJSurg 1942, 12, 111.
Penicillin: an investigation and clinical trial, with J Loewenthal and J Perry. Med J Aust 1944, 2, 473.
Reflections on rectal carcinoma. Alfred Hosp clin Rep 1953, 3, 5-15.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Med J Aust 1959, 1, 27-28 with portrait, by J C Stewart, Sir Kingsley Norris, J Orm Smith, Marjorie E Davey, and Douglas Miller; Ann Roy Coll Surg Engl 1958, 23, 397 by W B Gabriel, C Naunton Morgan, J C Stewart, and J Loewenthal; information from K F Russell].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England