5 May 2009: Eminent orthopaedic surgeon Dr Brendan Dooley was awarded Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) highest honour today, Doctor of the University, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to health care for over 50 years– in particular to surgical training standards, medical indemnity reform and to lowering trauma rates with compulsory seatbelt legislation.
Born in Melbourne in 1929, Dr Dooley studied medicine at the University of Melbourne and graduated MB BS with first class Honours and the Exhibition in Surgery in 1952.
After two years residency at St Vincent's Hospital, he went to London for postgraduate studies and continued his outstanding academic record when he was placed first in the year, awarded the Hallett Prize and gold medal in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and pathology – and graduated as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in England in 1956.
That same year he married nurse Margaret Doyle, with whom he had four children, who in turn gave him nine grandchildren.
Dr Dooley spent three years training at St Thomas's Hospital in London and Rowley Bristow Orthopaedic Hospital in Surrey, and then a year at the Boston Children's Hospital before returning to Melbourne in 1959.
Throughout his career, Dr Dooley gave generously of his time and skills in training and mentoring hundreds of young surgeons.
From 1991-94 he held the position of Censor-in-Chief at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, responsible for surgical standards including the difficult task of working out standards applicable to overseas-trained doctors.
He also substantially reformed programs and processes for surgical training in Australia and New Zealand and was recognised by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons with an appointment to its Court of Honour.
Dr Dooley contributed greatly to the work of the College’s Road Trauma Committee, and during the 1960s was instrumental in the introduction of compulsory seatbelt legislation in Victoria.
Victoria's 1970 law was the first in the world making wearing of seatbelts compulsory for drivers and front-seat passengers; and its 1979 law for compulsory seatbelts for both front and back seats was also the first. These moves, and the follow-on of other states, were widely credited as the single biggest factor in halving Australia's road toll.
In the 1970s however, people in countries such as United Kingdom, United States and Canada still needed convincing, and Dr Dooley was one of the experts called on to give public presentations of the Victorian evidence.
Dr Dooley ceased active surgical practice towards the end of 2004. He has since continued on in consultant practice, undertaking mainly medico-legal work relating to medical malpractice and assessment injury and disability – and in 2008 graduated with a postgraduate diploma in Health/Medical Law from Melbourne University.
Dr Dooley said his has been a fortunate life.
“While perhaps I could have achieved more, there is no doubt that whatever I have done and whatever I own or have achieved I owe largely to my parents and three brothers, the Jesuits who educated me for fifteen years and mainly my wife Margaret and four children,” he said.
Vice-Chancellor of ACU, Professor Greg Craven, congratulated the eminent doctor on his outstanding career and contribution to health care.