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And Now From The Beginning: UNSW Medicine’s Pioneers

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29 January 2016
UNSW Medicine’s class of 1961

UNSW Medicine’s class of 1961 were risk takers; a brave group who signed up to be the faculty’s first students. This group of mostly teenagers was drawn to the new, the innovative and the challenge of starting their medical careers at an institution, initially declared to be a ‘crack brained plan’ by the Sydney Morning Herald. It’s not surprising then that this group of students have incredible life stories, stories now documented in a new publication.

The publication, titled: And Now From The Beginning, the stories of the pioneer students of the UNSW School of Medicine profiles 47 students from the pioneer year who studied at the height of the Cold War and in a period of great international instability. The profiles recall humorous and moving memories from each student’s university days, recalls enduring friendships, impressive professional achievements and snippets from each student’s family life.

The stories are varied and vibrant and include anecdotes such as Ingrid Pacey recalling how nurses complained when she wore pants in the wards instead of a skirt. And Sue Whereat who bravely applied to enrol in the course without her parent’s knowledge after her dad told her that the profession was ‘too hard for a girl’ and ending up in a hospital in Zululand working 24 hour shifts on a dirt floor. The Afterword of the publication was written by retired Federal Court Magistrate Jillian Orchiston who notes the legacy many of the pioneering students derived from their unique experience as one of the pioneer medical students at UNSW was the ‘principles of innovation and leadership’ which had a profound impact on their later professional careers and on the significant contributions they made to medicine.

“The innovative and experimental spirit that fashioned their pioneer student days is reflected in the depth of their individual contributions to medicine at regional, national and international levels – in the UK, the US and as far flung as Zululand, Nepal and Papua New Guinea,” she wrote.

The book’s production was led by Jim Pollitt, David de Carle and Sue Whereat, all graduates from the class of 1961. Their efforts were described by one student as the ‘custodians who cosseted our memories and kept alive our history’.  

* Copies of the book can be ordered by contacting David de Carle via e: ddecarle@optusnet.com.au 
* Those interested in attending the book's February launch please contact Cristina Kennett via e: c.kennett@unsw.edu.au

Contact Name: 
Emma O'Neill, Marketing and Communications Officer, UNSW Medicine
Phone: 
T: +61 (2) 9385 2672