James Guest served his discipline with distinction, as surgeon, anatomist, medical historian and as an astute and perceptive leader.
11 June 1916 — 20 January 2015
James Guest died peacefully in Melbourne in his 99th year in early 2015, after a distinguished career in surgery, medical education and civilian life.
Born on 11 July 1916, James Stuart Guest grew up in Mildura. He attended Mildura High School and later Geelong Grammar School before enrolling at the University of Melbourne and graduating in science (BSc1938) and medicine (MB BS 1941) – the first year of the medical course to be shortened due to the war. He resided in Trinity College, was a skilful and enthusiastic oarsman and received a ‘Blue’ for rowing.
Following graduation, he was appointed to the junior medical staff of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where he served from 1941 to 1943, when he joined the Royal Australian Navy as a medical officer on HMAS Westralia.
The Westralia had an operating theatre where senior surgeon Douglas Lesley and James Guest performed surgery on injured soldiers. They took part in seven major Pacific landings, mainly serving in waters north of Australia, where Guest’s distinguished service led to an OBE. During this time, he needed a particular type of surgical retractor. He convinced the ship's engineer to fashion the instrument, the result of which is still exhibited in the museum at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
With the war over, James Guest undertook surgical training in London where he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Upon his return to Melbourne he was appointed Surgeon to the Alfred Hospital and made his name as a colorectal surgeon. He taught and examined in anatomy, examined for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, was Board Member and later Chairman of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, was on the Board of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Honorary Naval ADC to the Governor of Victoria. As a member of the Gull Force Medical Aid Team, James Guest made annual visits (1972-84) to Ambon, Indonesia to provide medical assistance. He was elected to the Board of Management of The Alfred in 1971 and retired from the active staff in 1976 but remained a consultant until 1981.
In 1979 James Guest was invited to become a Director and medical advisor, and later Chairman, of the Jack Brockhoff Foundation. Working closely with Sir Jack, vetting applicants for grants, he gained a wide knowledge of the needs of the disabled and disadvantaged in the community and of wider medical and social issues.
As Chairman of the Jack Brockhoff Foundation (1990-2005) James Guest was very active in promoting its work and extending the profound and positive impact of the Foundation's work throughout Victorian communities. In 2009 the Directors of the Jack Brockhoff Foundation recognised James Guest’s exceptional service by appointing him Patron.
James Guest served his discipline with distinction, as surgeon, anatomist, medical historian and as an astute and perceptive leader. His extensive service to medicine and the community was recognised in 1982 by Membership of the Order of Australia. He was awarded a Doctor of Medical Science Honoris Causa by The University of Melbourne in 2012, in recognition of his life’s work in improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities across the world.