The second of five children, Dr Gerard John McCaffrey was born to Paul and Maree on 22 March 1972. As the son of a diplomat, Gerard’s childhood was characterised by travel and immersion in new and different cultures. At school, Gerard worked hard because he wanted to fulfil a longstanding dream of becoming a doctor. As befits a Renaissance man, he not only excelled academically, he was also a keen and talented soccer player, played music and was effortlessly fluent in French. He adored reading, in keeping with his curious, intellectual and reflective mind, always looking for different perspectives on life.
After gaining entrance into Medicine at Melbourne University, Gerard resided at Newman College. He sailed through exams and, at a time before the University offered double degrees in Medicine, Gerard quietly and with determination completed a combined Arts-Medicine degree.
Between the preclinical and clinical years, Gerard took a break to resume his passion for travel. The next 12 months were incredibly precious to him and he often reflected on them with great fondness. He was inspired by the endless possibilities that life had to offer and was energised by new and different languages and cultures.
Gerard met Emily Jane Chester in 1987 and over the next five years built up enough courage to ask her out. Within a short time, he knew he had found his true love. They married and started their family, with the birth of Patrick at the dawn of the millennium. Joseph, Louis and Finian arrived over the course of the next decade. Gerard maintained that his greatest achievement in life was their four sons and there is no doubt that he will continue to live on through them.
Gerard started his clinical years at St Vincent’s Hospital, Fitzroy, in 1994. It was here that his theatrical flair and showmanship found a natural outlet under the watchful eye of the Clinical Dean, Wilma Beswick. After completing his physician training, Gerard first worked as a Gastroenterologist at Western Hospital, Footscray, and then again at St Vincent’s, an institution he loved and respected for its ethos and values. A brilliant career loomed. With his mastery of Spanish language, he organised a Doctorate in Hepatology in Barcelona. Tragically, however, on the eve of his departure the cancer diagnosis was made.
Despite not identifying with any organised religion, a Jesuit education, together with his personal reflections on the meaning of justice and the value of human life, made him a deeply moral and spiritual man. His profound sense of right and wrong never faltered and he always stood up for things he believed in. His deep respect for other people and cultures made him a compassionate man who recognised our common humanity over and above our differences. These attributes served him particularly well as a clinician. His intellect and sharp and attentive mind along with his kindness and empathy made him a brilliant doctor, loved and respected equally by his patients and colleagues.
Gerard faced each new health challenge with the same dry wit and determination. After becoming ill, much of his treatment was at St Vincent’s, and he was appreciative of the efforts of the many people who treated him with the kind of compassion and respect he gave to his own patients. He spent his last days in Caritas Christi Hospice, surrounded by family and friends, and in the care of a wonderful group of doctors and nurses. At the age of 44, Dr Gerard McCaffrey passed away in Emily’s arms in the early hours of 9 November 2016.
Mr Anand Ramakrishnan (MBBS 1996, MD 2008)
Director of Department of Plastic, Reconstructive and Facial Surgery, The Royal Melbourne Hospital