Raphael West Cilento : medical administrator, legislator, and visionary 1893-1945

Fisher, Fedora Gould (1984). Raphael West Cilento : medical administrator, legislator, and visionary 1893-1945 M.A. Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Fisher, Fedora Gould
Thesis Title Raphael West Cilento : medical administrator, legislator, and visionary 1893-1945
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1984
Thesis type M.A. Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor -
Total pages 302
Language eng
Subjects 210304 Biography
11 Medical and Health Sciences
Formatted abstract
Raphael West Cilento graduated in medicine from the University of Adelaide in
November 1918. This is an account of his professional activities and achievements from then until he left Australia in May 1945 to serve with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

With the exception of a year spent in private practice in Adelaide between November 1919 and October 1920 Cilento was engaged in a variety of aspects of tropical medicine and/or public health during the period of this study. He served most of this time in Queensland, Mandated Territory of New Guinea or the southwest Pacific. His two principal employers were the Commonwealth government, December 1921 to September 1934, and the Queensland government, October 1934 to July 1946. (He was on leave during the last eighteen months of his Queensland government service).

This thesis claims to produce evidence which supports the following major propositions:

Cilento was a leading public health man in his time. He had exceptional talent as an administrator in the health field. Faced with a problem therein he could quickly discern its basic causes and devise administrative structures to bring about effective solutions. His quick grasp of essentials made him an excellent negotiator in a crisis.

When legislation was needed to effect reforms he produced Acts and Regulations that were innovative, practical and relevant. This legislation stood the test of time.

As a conceptual thinker, Cilento responded to the intellectual challenges of problem solving with originality and vision. Unlike his peers in the Anglo-Saxon tradition he perceived the difference between social medicine and the more specific, pragmatic programmes of preventive medicine.

In the latter sphere he was also practical and clearly saw the need to educate the public. As a speaker and writer he was both polished and popular.

Cilento played a major part in establishing a faculty of medicine within the University of Queensland. He established, in the English-speaking world, the first chair which in it title used 'Social Medicine', namely, Social and Tropical Medicine. He introduced social hygiene as a curriculum study for the first time in an Australian University.

He successfully promoted research. In the Department of Health and Home Affairs he built up an excellent laboratory which rapidly produced results in that the micro-organisms that caused two separate disease entities, 'Q' fever and 'Pomona fever', were discovered in the 1930's. The laboratory was also a centre for forensic medicine.

Through his membership, first of the Federal Health Council and then of its successor, the National Health and Medical Research Council, Cilento influenced health policy and bio-medical research on an Australia wide basis.

Cilento recognised the injustice that had been done to Aborigines. Within the limits of his powers (which in this area were tightly restricted) he strove constantly to improve their health and to preserve their culture.

As Director General of Health and Medical Services he was believed by the organised medical profession to be involved in the destruction of the powers of the honorary doctors in the public hospital system. As a public servant advising the Commonwealth government he produced an administrative structure for one of the earliest attempts to introduce national sickness insurance into Australia. The profession's resentment of the government's intrusion into this area was directed at Cilento personally. Reasons are given why this was both odious and unjust.

Cilento's major fault was an inability to discern what was feasible at a given time, be it in medico-politics, politics or public service life. In his determination to achieve results quickly, he was intolerant of the views and difficulties of his opponents. This could adversely affect his working relationships with superiors. He was ambitious and had a propensity to centralise power. His insatiable curiosity and vitality were fuelled by a constant stream of new ideas. He loved to institute reforms but lacked the patience to consolidate these by routine. He was always looking for fresh fields to conquer.
Keyword Cilento, Raphael, Sir, 1893-1985
Medicine -- Australia -- Biography

Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Fri, 11 Dec 2009, 10:48:27 EST by Ms Christine Heslehurst on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service