Dr Ruth Sandland (Redpath) ( b.1940) in front of John Hunter's statue, Royal College of Surgeons, London
Colour photograph of Dr Ruth Sandland (now known as Rev. Dr Ruth Redpath) posing for a photograph after being made FRCS in 1970.
When Dr Ruth Redpath (now Rev. Dr) graduated in 1964 there were no formal palliative care services in Australia. After completing surgical training, she undertook training in radiation oncology in London. During this time, she was inspired by Dr Cicely Saunders, the pioneer of modern approaches to symptom control in life-threatening illness and the whole-of-person care that accompanied it. On return to Australia in 1982, she became acutely aware of the possibilities for improving the care of the terminally ill in Australia.
Together with other enthusiasts in the Victorian Association for Hospice and
Palliative Care (AHPC), Dr Redpath advocated to government, oncology practitioners, and doctors and nurses for better recognition of these specialist needs. Community services improved in 1989 with Medicare and state funding for community-based programs, and specialist nurses were able to provide services complementary to district nursing.Dr Redpath worked as a palliative care physician at Monash Medical Centre until 1994, becoming president of the Australian AHPC and, later, of Cancer Council Victoria.During and since that time, services have been extensively developed through regional and metropolitan Melbourne, with home-based care, funding of palliative care and respite beds staffed by multidisciplinary teams. Accredited education programs now exist for medical and nursing staff, with integration of services into medical care, especially in the oncology setting. The excellent services available to terminally ill patients in Victoria result from
the efforts of Dr Redpath and her colleagues, who sought to improve care. In 2003,
Dr Redpath was made an Officer in the Order of Australia for services to the development of palliative care services in Australia.
Dr Redpath was inspired by several of her teachers, who demonstrated truly
holistic patient care. Her observation is that women can often more readily put a person in the total context of family and social circumstance, which can lead to more appropriate decisions about treatment and the patient feeling that they have been ‘heard’. This is particularly important in palliative care, but applicable to all branches of medicine. Her advice to young doctors is to use technology as an aid to diagnosis and treatment, not as master of it, and to consider the whole person when making management decisions.
Dr Geraldine Goss
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