David Maddison

President 1974

Professor David Maddison graduated with honours in Medicine from the University of Sydney in 1948. He first trained as a physician, and then as a psychiatrist at Rozelle Hospital Broughton Hall, where he served as a Medical Officer (1950–1953) and Deputy Medical Superintendent (1954–1956). He gained the University of Sydney’s Diploma of Psychological Medicine in 1953.

Following a period of post-graduate study in London, Professor Maddison returned to the University of Sydney to become Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry, and eventually Professor of Psychiatry in 1962. From 1964–1965 he spent time at Harvard University as a visiting professor, where he worked with Gerald Caplan, a pioneering community psychiatrist. This experience fostered an interest in community and preventative psychiatry, in which he saw the patient in a wider social setting and promoting an interdisciplinary teamwork approach to therapy and rehabilitation.

Professor Maddison would subsequently become Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Sydney (1972–1974), and then the Foundation Dean of Medicine at the University of Newcastle (1974–1981).

A member of the Australasian Association of Psychiatrists since 1955 and a Foundation Fellow of the College at its incorporation in 1963, Professor Maddison was the organisation’s first Censor-in-Chief (1961–1971). He was central to the introduction and improvement of the College’s examination systems during this time, and his work laid the foundations on which the College’s Membership standards developed.

Throughout his career, he significantly changed the face of psychiatry in New South Wales and Australia, often provoking strenuous opposition from traditionally minded colleagues. He also led major changes in medical education both within Australia and internationally. As Dean of the Newcastle Medical School, Professor Maddison recruited Faculty staff who shared his vision of a medical curriculum that was informed by the current profile of illness in the Australian community, that took seriously the humanity of patients, that emphasized the social determinants of health, and that recruited mature and motivated students to undertake medical training.

Although choosing medicine as his principal career, as a child Professor Maddison was also a musical prodigy.  He gave his first public performance as a pianist at the age of seven and played with the ABC’s Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the age of nine. His love of music lasted all his life and co-existed throughout his medical career.

Professor Maddison led the field of change in medical education both within Australia and internationally and has been described as an innovator with respect to mental health. He championed an education designed to produce doctors who understood patients better and who could tackle disease in a wider social and community context.

Described by friends as energetic, warm and witty, with an insatiable appetite for work, he possessed intellectual distinction and artistic sensitivity. He was highly regarded by colleagues across all fields of medicine and influenced many colleagues working in other disciplines.

Professor David Maddison was undoubtedly one of the most significant figures in the history of the College. Maddison House, the RANZCP’s New South Wales Branch premises, is named in his honour, as is the College’s Maddison Medallion which recognises the most outstanding performance by a trainee throughout the College’s training and examination program.

More information

Presidential addres: Take Me to Your Leader: The Psychiatrist in the Health Care System
Biography from Australian Dictionary of Biography
Tribute address to Professor David Maddison given on the occasion of the opening of Maddison House, NSW Branch, June 1999


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