Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Freeman, Richard Peter (1925 - 2015)

OAM 2000; MB BS Melbourne 1948; FRCS 1955; FRACS 1959; DLO.

22 May 1925
19 June 2015
Head and neck surgeon and Otolaryngologist


Peter Freeman had been School Captain and Head Cadet at Hutchins School in Hobart and qualified in Medicine at Melbourne University (MBBS) in 1948.

As a young graduate he worked in General Practice in St Kilda for a couple of years but had a clinical appointment at The Alfred Hospital and was influenced by his boss Noel Box to become an ENT Surgeon.

He went off alone to England to study for a year or so and passed the Fellowship of the College of Surgeons there in 1955. This was a separation driven by commitment to succeed - as he did.

Lesley and Richard joined him soon after and he spent two further years in London and Northampton gaining valuable surgical experience before returning to Melbourne and The Alfred Hospital in 1957. He gained his Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons 1959.

At The Alfred he was visiting specialist and long term Head of the ENT Unit until he retired from the public hospital system in 1985. He had a collaborative approach to the management of patients with complex conditions and worked well with surgeons and specialists of other disciplines. This approach led to the beginning of skull base surgery at the hospital. He inspired numerous young residents to train as ENT Surgeons.

He was also responsible for the establishment of the hearing and balance investigation department at the hospital in the 1980s. This was a highly sophisticated diagnostic facility, which was the first and only one of its kind in Melbourne for many years.

He served as Chairman of Medical Staff at The Alfred, he was involved in various Committees, and was a pro-active member of the Planning Group responsible for the new ward block, keen to ensure that the interests of patients and staff were best served.

He served as a Member of the Board of Management from 1984 to 1987.

Peter had a number of national roles in ENT.

He was a Member and then Chair of the National Training Board and Examiner for final Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

He was President of the Otolaryngology Society of Australia from 1977 to 1979 and later awarded Life Membership of the Australian Society of Oto-Laryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, as it became.

Peter was a member of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve for 35 years and attained the very senior rank of Surgeon Captain. During this time, he was Senior ENT Consultant to the Royal Australian Navy and long term national ENT Advisor to the Director-General of Naval Health Services. As part of his clinical role in the Navy he was involved in treating naval divers who had suffered inner ear damage in the course of their work and also produced some significant scientific publications on this condition. He earned multiple military decorations during his navy service.

Peter served as Honorary Otologist and Board Member of the Victorian School for Deaf Children over many years and was made a Life Governor of The School in 1992.

He had a significant international profile. He was well known and respected by a wide group of senior ENT Surgeons in the UK, Europe and America - a number of whom became his friends.

He visited them when overseas at surgical conferences and was successful in having many of them come to Australia, regarded as a relatively remote destination in those days, to lecture and teach our trainees and surgeons, providing world class instruction for them at home.

Over the years, his professional connections in the Northern Hemisphere enabled many young ENT surgeons to secure advanced surgical fellowships in various overseas departments in a wide range of sub-disciplines. They subsequently brought new experience and expertise back to Australia.

With two or three other senior Australian ENT surgeons, Peter maintained contact in America over many years with Ms Barbara Williams, the widow of a fellow ENT Surgeon. Their long and trusted association contributed to the establishment of The Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation in Australia in the mid 1980s - a great gift to Australia.

This is now one of the world's major philanthropic bodies in medicine, supporting research and practice in ENT Surgery and related fields. He served as a Trustee, Chairman of the Board and then Chairman of Trustees in his 25 years with the Foundation and was awarded their inaugural Foundation Gold Medal in 2012.

Peter was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the year 2000 for his extensive contribution to Otolaryngology.

Peter Freeman was a leader, and he led from the front. He was a force to be reckoned with, but a force for good. He has had a great influence on the specialty of ENT or Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery in Australia and this has directly and indirectly benefitted many thousands of our patients. His has left an enduring legacy.

Vincent Cousins

Sources used to compile this entry: [Republished by kind permission of the President and Council of The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons from In Memoriam (].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England