Lazarus, Leslie

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Leslie (Les) Lazarus became the first full-time specialist in endocrinology at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney in 1962 and pioneered the early establishment of the Department of Endocrinology. He was one of the initial Co-directors of the Garvan Institute in 1963, and the first sole Director in 1969.

Les began his medical career as an Anatomy Prosector in 1948 and graduated from Medicine in 1953. He served as a Resident Medical Officer at St Vincent’s Hospital from 1953 to 1954, and then became Pathology Registrar in 1955 and medical registrar in 1956. He was admitted to Membership of the Royal Australian College of Physicians two years later.

In 1959, he obtained a fellowship of the Postgraduate Medical Foundation to study endocrinology at the Institute of Clinical Research, Middlesex Hospital Medical School, London until 1961. It was here that he had the opportunity to work with renowned physician and endocrinologist, Sir John Nabarro.

On his return to St Vincent’s Hospital in 1962, he was appointed Staff Endocrinologist, making him one of the first trained endocrinologists in Australia. As medical historian John Hickie outlines:

At the time of his appointment, space was made available in the Biochemistry Department and with the assistance of Margaret Stuart, a science graduate, he began steroid analyses. Within 12 months, 1011 tests had been performed including urinary 17-ketosteroids, 17-hydroxycorticosteroids, gonadotrophins, plasm cortisol and a number of endocrine stimulation and suppression tests.[1]

In 1963 the Garvan Institute of Medical Research was opened with Les as a Co-director. In 1969 he was appointed sole Director of the Institute. Again, according to Hickie:

Les began a lifelong study of pituitary hormones, especially growth hormone, combining his laboratory skills with the patient problems available in the neurosurgical unit such as pituitary tumours, acromegaly and hypopituitarism. Les and a brilliant radiochemist, John Young, working together at St Vincent’s developed a series of radioimmunoassays for growth hormone, luteinising hormone, insulin, secretin and gastrin. He also combined with John Hickie in studies of aldosterone metabolism in cardiac failure using a double isotope derivative technique. He provided a research stimulus for a large number of young postgraduates. He was responsible for the successful development of the Garvan Institute and its eventual program funding by NHMRC.

Les was admitted to Fellowship of the Australian Association of Clinical Biochemists in 1968 and to Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australia in 1977. At the University of New South Wales, he was appointed Senior Lecturer in Medicine (Conjoint) in 1971, Associate Professor of Medicine 1974 to 1979, again from 1984 to 1988, and then Professor in 1988. He held numerous guest lectureships and other professorships between 1968 and 1990.

He was Honorary Consultant Medical Officer (Endocrinology) at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Sydney in 1972; Chairman of the Human Pituitary Advisory Committee, Commonwealth Department of Health 1976 and Director of Pacific Biotechnology in 1987.

Les was continuously involved with the Council of the Endocrine Society of Australia from 1968 to 1982, when he was elected Honorary Life Member. He was also a member of the Research and Fellowships Committee, NHMRC from 1975 to 1981, Chairman of the Regional Grants Interviewing Committee NHMRC and Member of the CSIRO Medical Research Liaison Committee from 1984 to 1987.[1]

In 1988, Les was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for “services to medicine, particularly in the field of medical research”.[1]

Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Lazarus, Leslie. 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.