Morrow, Sir Arthur William

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Sir Arthur William Morrow was one of the founding members of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital gastroenterology unit which in 1961 became the AW Morrow Department of Gastroenterology. In 1957, he became the first President of the Gastroenterological Society of Australia.

Bill (as he was commonly known) was born in Maitland, NSW and graduated from Medicine with honours in 1927. He was appointed as a Resident to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, to which he devoted his medical skills throughout his professional working life. He was Deputy Medical Superintendent in 1932 and appointed as Honorary Assistant Physician in 1934. He became Honorary Physician in 1951 and Honorary Consultant Physician in 1963.

Stanley Goulston writes that the period in which Bill served at RPAH was one of intense activity and change:

The period between 1947 and 1967 has been described as the ‘Golden Age of Medicine’ at that hospital. During this time the subspecialties in medicine came into being, these mainly developed by the honorary visiting staff. He was awarded a travelling fellowship in 1948 and in the United Kingdom and United States he visited the main centres of learning and research in gastroenterology. On his return he established with younger colleagues the gastroenterology unit which in 1961 became the AW Morrow Department of Gastroenterology. This department was and still is funded largely by the Bushell Foundation due to his distinction and influence. The department had a research director, registrars, lab space and technical and clerical staff. It was one of the first of its kind in Australia and soon gained international repute. It became an important training centre for young trainees and many important research contributions were published.

Bill was also one of the Founders of the Gastroenterological Society of Australia and was its first President in 1957 and 1958. From 1935 to 1963, he was a Lecturer in Therapeutics at the University of Sydney, where he also worked as a Clinical Lecturer in Medicine. Bill was a major contributor to postgraduate activities both within and without of the Hospital as a Member of the Postgraduate Committee in Medicine and Medical Foundation at the University. He established a consultancy practice in Macquarie Street and soon became well sought after. Bill regularly attended conferences both locally and overseas and, as was not uncommon in those days, would make country consultations across NSW.

Bill had a long period of distinguished service with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians; he was a Foundation Fellow in 1938; served on the Board of Censors from 1952 to 1966, as Censor-in-Chief from 1962 onwards; and was elected to Council in 1957, serving as President from 1966 to 1968.

Bill joined the Sydney University Regiment in 1929 and enlisted in the AAMC AIF in 1940, appointed to the 2nd/5th AGH as Officer commanding the medical division. Goulston tells of his service in the World War II:

Following a period in the Gaza area of Palestine, the hospital was sent to Greece in 1941. The swift German invasion of Greece led to a retreat of Australian forces and at Piraeus, the ship evacuating the unit was bombed and its commanding officer, Colonel W Kay, was killed. Lieutenant Colonel Morrow took command. The hospital complement reached Crete and was again under heavy bombardment from the air until evacuated safely to Alexandria. For his command during this hazardous period he was awarded the DSO… As in all other areas of endeavour his war service contributions were outstanding.

The hospital later returned to Australia, where Bill held posts of Commanding Officer, 119th and 121st AGH with the rank of Colonel. In 1944, Bill became Consultant Physician Advanced Land Head Quarters and worked to maintain the health of the Australian Army in PNG and the Pacific area.

In 1950, Bill was appointed to two important new Commonwealth Health Department committees: the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. He served as Chairman of both committees for eight years and worked closely with the Director General of Medical Services, Sir William Refshauge.

Bill was a Councillor and President of the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association. He held consultant physician appointments to the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, Canterbury District Hospital, Marrickville and Western Suburbs Hospitals. [1]

Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Morrow, Sir Arthur William. 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.