Lawrence, James Roland

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MM ad eundem gradum 2001 MB BS (Adel) 1954 Hon D Med Sc (USM) FACP (Hon) FRCPE

James (Jim) Lawrence was the inaugural Director of the Renal Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 1964. In this capacity, he was a leader in the first successful renal transplant in Australia. He was Founding Director of the Australian Kidney Foundation.

Jim was born in Mt Gambier, South Australia in 1930. He studied medicine at the University of Adelaide and graduated in 1954, after which he became Resident Medical Officer at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Adelaide Children’s Hospital. He worked as a Lecturer in Pathology at the University of Adelaide in 1956 and as a Medical Registrar at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in 1957. A year later, he was a Barker Research Fellow in the University of Adelaide’s Department of Medicine.

Jim made the decision to specialise in the emerging field of renal medicine in the late 1950s. This was “a case of good timing because artificial kidneys had just become available, transplants were occurring, and kidney biopsies and immunology were unravelling renal disease”.[1] Jim obtained a scholarship from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians to undertake renal medicine research in Chicago, and from 1958 to 1959 he was a Research Assistant and Fellow at the University of Illinois.

Moving to the United Kingdom in 1961, Jim was a Research Fellow in the Department of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and then in the Medical Unit of University College Hospital Medical School in London.

He returned to Adelaide in 1964 as Director of the new Renal Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He was offered this position at the young age of 33 “because at the time there weren’t many senior doctors who knew much about the new specialty of kidney disease”.[1] In this capacity in 1965, he was part of the first team in Australia to perform a successful renal transplant. He established a renal unit providing care of end-stage renal failure using newly developed long-term dialysis, and in 1965 the first successful renal transplant in Australia was performed in the Unit. The Unit introduced the concepts of integrated multidisciplinary team care, and embarked on collaborative studies of newly recognised renal disease based on renal biopsy and immunology as well as analgesic nephropathy. National networks were built for transplant donor exchange and tissue typing. Jim and his interstate colleagues worked to establish the new medical specialty in Australia and New Zealand, and for many years attracted outstanding academic and clinical trainees in renal medicine from across Australia and Southeast Asia. His energy and leadership saw him elected as founding Vice President, and then President of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nephrology 1966 to 1970. Australia made major contributions to the rapidly evolving field of renal disease and its management. As a founding Director of the Australian Kidney Foundation, Jim served on the Board from 1983 to 1999 and was Vice president from 1983 to 1999.

In 1976, he was appointed Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney and Foundation Chair at the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, which he remained until 1997. As an enthusiastic teacher and leader he played a major role in establishing the Clinical School at CRGH, together with his Academic and Staff Specialist colleagues. From 1988 to 1991, he was Head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Sydney.

Jim was active in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, as Censor from 1967 to 1979, Councillor for eight years from 1980, and Chairman and Honorary Director of the Board of Continuing Education 1981 to 1988. He was a Member of the Asian Pacific Committee from 1981 to 2001 and convened the Scientific Program RACP International Golden Jubilee Meeting.

Lawrence made a particular contribution to the evolution of more modern integrated undergraduate and post graduate teaching and assessment in the Faculty. In 1977, he became a Member of the University’s Postgraduate Committee in Medicine, and was Honorary Director from 1989 to 2000. Since its inception in 1978 and until 2000, he convened the Basic Physician Training Program, the Committee’s flagship course. His role in continuing education also extended to the Australian Postgraduate Federation in Medicine, of which between 1980 and 2001, he served as Councillor, Vice President, and President. He was a member of the NSW Postgraduate Medical Council from 1989 to 1994.

Between 1992 and 1998, Jim was Deputy Chair of the Academic Board and Chair of the Committee for Graduate Studies at the University of Sydney. A tribute to Jim and his contribution in these roles was given at his last Academic Board meeting in 1998:

… Jim Lawrence has so unstintingly and generously given of his time, experience, unfailing tact and wisdom to the collegial life and good governance of the University… As Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee for seven years, Jim Lawrence has been committed to both ensuring that our graduate students are nourished and cherished and that the degrees with which they graduate have the highest possible currency.

In this position, Jim also developed the Postgraduate Studies Handbook and instituted the program for supervisor training in collaboration with the Centre for Teaching and Learning. He oversaw the enhancement of the postgraduate review process and was responsible for the selection of examiners in consultation and assessment of appeals. His time as Chair was one of reform and resulted in increased accountability of supervisors and standards across all Faculties.

Throughout his career Jim has been an effective member of numerous other Faculty and University committees. He was Associate Dean of the Undergraduate Medical Program and International affairs from 1995 to 2001. In 1985, under the auspices of IDP, he began an association with University Sains Malaysia and for 10 years from 1995, was Senior Consultant Advisor to the USMUS (University Sains Malaysia, University of Sydney) postgraduate exchange education program. In 2005, Jim was recognised for his contribution to the growth of the School of Medical Sciences in USM with the award of an Honorary Doctorate

From 1998 Jim was a Visiting Professor of Medicine at Canterbury Hospital for two years, and Visiting Professor (Physician Education) at Westmead Hospital for four years. Between 2000 and 2004, he was a member of the Academic Council International Medical University, Malaysia.

Jim was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for “service to medical education and to nephrology” in 1993.[1] In 2002 he was appointed Emeritus Professor in the Faculty of Medicine and remains active within the University of Sydney.

Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Lawrence, James Roland. Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive, University of Sydney.

An alternate version appears in: Mellor, L. 150 Years, 150 Firsts: The People of the Faculty of Medicine (2006) Sydney, Sydney University Press.