Rennie, Harry Maynard

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Maynard Rennie (with Cotter Harvey) established the Thoracic Unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital during World War II and developed services for patients with lung disease, but particularly tuberculosis. He was also one of the first doctors to obtain Membership of the e Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) by examination in 1938. Much later, in 1970, he was a Foundation Member (and President) of the Commonwealth Government Committee to determine the criteria for recognition of medical specialists.

Maynard Rennie, known as Ted to his colleagues, was born in Sydney in 1904 and studied medicine at the University of Sydney. After graduating in 1928, he spent two years as a Resident Medical Officer at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, then going to England for postgraduate study and experience. In 1932, he passed the examination for Membership of the Royal College of Physicians.

On return to Sydney in 1932, Ted settled in Ashfield where he commenced general practice. He could hardly have foreseen at the time that he would remain in some form of medical practice for over 50 years. Although the time he devoted to medical practice was reduced in his later years, he continued working until he was 79.

In 1933 while in general practice at Ashfield, he was appointed a Clinical Assistant in Medicine at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, an institution which he continued to serve with distinction until he reached the statutory retirement age of 60. He became an Honorary Assistant Physician in 1938. In that same year, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians was founded. Ted was one of the first to obtain Membership of the College, by examination, in its foundation year.

In 1945 he left his Ashfield general practice to set up as a Consultant Physician, a ‘Macquarie Street specialist’. He was very successful, having good support from the doctors who referred patients to him and from his Ashfield patients who travelled to his new practice.

With so many of its medical staff away on military service, there was little progression at Prince Alfred Hospital during World War II, but soon after it ended, medicine began to develop rapidly at the Hospital and Ted played a special role in this development. Having an interest in thoracic medicine, he joined forces with Cotter Harvey, a Senior Physician who was restricting his activities to the care of the many patients with pulmonary tuberculosis.

Together they formed the Thoracic Unit, to care for patients with all kinds of lung disease. It flourished, and they were soon joined by Maurice Joseph, as Physician, and John MacMahon, as Surgical Consultant. The Thoracic Unit continued to develop and is still flourishing as a unit that and has a proud record in patient care, medical research and the training of specialists in thoracic medicine.

Ted became an Honorary Physician in 1956, joining a small, elite group of senior physicians at the Hospital. By 1959, the work of the Thoracic Unit had become so demanding that he relinquished his general medical duties and became Honorary Thoracic Physician. When he retired from the active staff in 1964, he was made an Honorary Consultant Physician, a post which he held until his death.

The other important focus of Ted’s medical activities was the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. In 1950, being aware of his abilities, the College Council appointed him Honorary Secretary of the College and an ex officio Member of the Council, a post he held for 10 years. After his long term in this role, Ted remained on the College Council as an elected Councillor, Vice-President and, in 1970, as President, the highest honour the College could bestow on him. He retired from the Council in 1974, after 24 years of service to medicine of the highest order.

There were other areas of medicine in which Ted gave outstanding service. He was a Member of the NSW Medical Board from 1962 to 1974, and its President from 1972. Ted also served on the committee set up in 1970 by the Commonwealth Government to determine the requirements for recognition as specialists for the purpose of the National Health Service, and to list those who met these requirements. It was a high-powered committee of senior specialists in the various disciplines, not just medicine, nominated by the appropriate college or specialist association and appointed by the Commonwealth Government. Ted was a Foundation Member of that Committee and its first president. Under his guidance, guidelines for the recognition of specialists were laid down. Ted retired from that post in 1979.

Ted gave service of extraordinarily high order to his country and his profession. His strong religious convictions and his work ethic towards the common good and excellence in his work, were clearly a driving force behind him, but certainly did not obtrude in these activities. All who worked closely with him admired his ability and the high standards he set for himself and achieved.[1]

Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Rennie, Harry Maynard. 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.