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Biographical entry Searby, Clifford Henry Coomer (1897 - 1967)

CBE; MRCS and FRCS 1925; BSc; MB BS Melbourne 1921; MS 1924; FRACS 1928.

8 January 1897
31 August 1967
General surgeon


Henry Searby was born on 8 January 1897, the son of C A H Searby, Headmaster of Melbourne High School, where he was educated. He proceeded to the University of Melbourne (Ormond College) in 1914, but when war broke out he was one of a group of undergraduates who completed their year and then enlisted in the Army. After serving in the Middle East, where he contracted an intestinal infection which dogged him for the rest of his life, he was demobilized in order to complete the medical course, returning to his studies in 1917. He graduated in 1921, undertook several junior appointments in the Melbourne (later Royal Melbourne) Hospital, and for two years held the Stewart lectureship in anatomy in the University.

In 1925 he came to England, passed the Fellowship examination, and returned to Melbourne to work as assistant to Alan Newton. In 1927 he became surgeon to outpatients, and in 1934 surgeon to inpatients at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, an appointment which he held till he retired in 1949 when he was made consulting surgeon. In 1928 he became a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons, and thus commenced a long and most distinguished career in the College during its early formative years. He served on the Council and the Court of Examiners, as Vice-President and also Chairman of the Executive Committee which involved many responsible duties which he undertook with devotion and enjoyment, for there is no doubt that he derived much satisfaction from these arduous tasks.

In the second world war he served as a surgical specialist in the Royal Australian Air Force with the rank of Group Captain. He was honorary surgeon to HRH the Duke of Gloucester during his term as Governor-General of Australia, and he was also honorary surgeon to King George VI and to Her Majesty the Queen from the time of her accession to the throne. His public duties in Melbourne included the Medical Board of Victoria, of which he became President, the Council of the Victorian Branch of the British Medical Association, and the Council of Ormond College. In 1955 he was President of the Melbourne Club.

In spite of these many calls upon his time he never failed to maintain the highest ideals in his surgical practice, both in regard to the care of patients and in advancing the operative treatment of goitre and upper abdominal disease, subjects in which he was particularly interested. He set himself high standards, and was sometimes critical of others who seemed to him to deviate from them. He played an active part in the Clinical School, and when he was acting as Sub-Dean from 1930 till 1934 he made notable improvements in clinical teaching and in the students' working conditions. In acknowledgement of his contributions to the science and art of surgery he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland.

Unfortunately his latter years were impaired by serious ill-health, and his death on 31 August 1967 came as a merciful release from suffering. He had married in 1929 Mary Hordern, and she and their two sons survived him.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Med J Aust 1968, 1, 149].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England