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Biographical entry Hurley, Desmond Garvan (1921 - 1999)

MRCS and FRCS 1950; MB BS Melbourne 1945, FRACS 1959; LRCP 1950.

24 June 1921
Nhill, Victoria, Australia
29 March 1999


Desmond Garvan Hurley was born in Nhill on 24 June 1921, the third of four sons of Dr John and Mrs Greta Garvan Hurley. As there was no other medical practitioner in the town at the time the occasion was unusual in that his father was, of necessity, accoucheur.

Like his father and brothers, Desmond was educated at Xavier College, matriculating in l939. He studied medicine at the University of Melbourne and graduated with honours in 1945, winning the Ryan Prize for Medicine at St Vincent's Hospital where he did his residency. He then spent two years working with his father in general practice in Corowa. This was a particularly rewarding period of his life and ever afterwards he would recount stories and anecdotes of his experiences as a country general practitioner.

At the end of 1949 he came to England to study surgery. Quickly obtaining the Fellowship he had the very good fortune to become a protégé of Sir Gordon Gordon Taylor who had a significant influence on the formation of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Under Sir Gordon's auspices, Desmond became the first of many Australians to work at the Essex County Hospital in Colchester as a surgical registrar. He then won a prestigious surgical Fellowship to the Mayo Clinic in the United States of America which gave him the opportunity to observe and work with many famous surgeons. Returning to the UK in 1953 Desmond became senior surgical registrar at the Middlesex Hospital in London. While there he took the opportunity to observe the surgical expertise of Norman Tanner in London and Pietro Valdoni in Rome and always said they were the best surgical technicians he had ever seen.

In 1954 he returned to Australia. He brought with him many new and modern concepts of surgery and surgical management - in particular, expertise in the theory and practice of intravenous therapy. He obtained the FRACS and was appointed to the surgical staff at St Vincent's where he was to work for the next thirty-two years. He established a large and busy surgical practice both in Melbourne and in Victoria County and became a well-known, highly respected general surgeon, specialising in abdominal surgery in all its varieties and in surgery of the thyroid and the breast. In 1966 he was leader of one of the St Vincent's Hospital Medical and Nursing Teams in South Vietnam.

In 1970 Desmond became head of a surgical unit at St Vincent's Hospital. After retirement from the Hospital in 1986 he continued surgical practice for some years and was always available to give generous advice, help and assistance to the many who asked for it. He was a person of great integrity, honest and straightforward, without any meanness in his character. He possessed an enormous gift for friendship, a marvellous sense of humour, sympathy, empathy with and interest in other people.

He died on 29 March 1999, after facing his final illness with fortitude and courage, sustained by his strong but undemonstrative faith, and a calm acceptance of the inevitable outcome.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Chiron 2000 1 UMMS 46].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England