‘An absolute icon’: Vale Professor Chris Del Mar

Morgan Liotta

1/03/2022 5:11:17 PM

The passing of the widely admired champion of general practice has prompted an outpouring of emotion from the GP community and beyond.

Professor Chris Del Mar
Professor Chris Del Mar’s significant, long-term contributions to evidence-based practice will remain a large part of his legacy.

Professor of Public Health at Bond University Chris Del Mar, who died earlier this week aged 72, is being remembered for his world renowned work in healthcare and clinical research, as well as his decades-long contribution to aspiring doctors across Australia.
Professor Del Mar’s commitment to evidence-based health policies was of great benefit to patients, and saw him advocate for greater antibiotic stewardship and support the introduction of respiratory virus research findings into clinical practice.
As a long-time mentor of junior doctors and medical students, he was also highly regarded for his leadership.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price paid tribute to Professor Del Mar both professionally and personally.
‘It’s already been said what an absolute icon of general practice that he was,’ she told newsGP.
‘His curriculum and contributions to general practice represented by his Order of Australia medal last year clearly demonstrate his amazing capacity.
‘And personally, he was such a generous and funny and kind person, who was always inclusive of everybody, never put anyone down and was always curious about what other people were doing and encouraging young researchers.
‘That generosity of spirit is something that’s very rare these days. And it was really a genuine generosity − people like that are very rare.’
While Professor Del Mar’s life was marked by personal achievement and public accolades, it was also not without its challenges; a tragic surfing accident on the Gold Coast in 2019 caused a complete spinal cord injury that required months of intensive care and left him wheelchair-bound.
But despite the personal trauma, he continued to contribute to medical education and research, as well as provide guidance to medical students and supervise PhDs.
RACGP Vice President and Queensland Faculty Chair, Dr Bruce Willett is also saddened to hear of Professor Del Mar’s passing.
‘He will be deeply missed and a huge loss for general practice and primary care around Australia,’ Dr Willett told newsGP.
‘[In addition to] many years of service to the RACGP and Bond University, [Professor Del Mar] was a long-time advocate of antibiotic stewardship and evidence-based practice.
‘Even before his tragic spinal injury, the RACGP Queensland Faculty had an annual academic award named in Chris’s honour for the top medical student in the general practice stream at Bond University − the RACGP Queensland Chris Del Mar Prize.
‘With agreement [from the university] we will be continuing this honour for a remarkable person.’
Among his many accolades, Professor Del Mar was awarded the AAAPC Bridges-Webb Medal in 2014 and the RACGP Rose-Hunt Award in 2008 for his contributions to evidence-based practice in primary care.
He also worked in editorial roles for the Cochrane Collaboration and Australian Family Physician (now Australian Journal of General Practice), held a position on the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Health Care Committee, and contributed to numerous papers published in international medical journals.
Long-time friend and colleague at Bond University, Professor Paul Glasziou, spoke highly of Professor Del Mar.
‘Chris was a remarkable blend of active general practitioner, teacher, and researcher,’ Professor Glasziou told newsGP.

‘He was Australia’s great champion of GPs doing research about the clinical conditions they see frequently.

'He had an immense impact on primary care research and researchers that will live on.’

Dr Price said the RACGP will continue to honour Professor Del Mar’s legacy.
‘He will be very missed and … our hearts go out to the family and all his friends for the enormous loss,’ she said.
‘He won’t be forgotten as a great role model. Even after he’s passed, he’ll continue to be an inspiring role model of just what can be achieved with the great and complex discipline of general practice.
‘Oxford Scholar, Cochrane Collaboration, evidence-based medicine – all internationally recognised − this is the top of scope of general practice, and he managed to do it all.
‘He was a great role model and will continue to be so.’
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Chris Del Mar

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A.Prof Christopher David Hogan   1/03/2022 6:07:06 PM

I knew Chris for a long time & to describe him as an original thinker sums it up beautifully.
His first publication was written before he started Medicine & it was on the activities of the limpet Patella Vulgata. He noticed that they were very noisy at night & presumed that they moved. He made meticulous observations in all types of severe English seaside weather.
He submitted the paper & it was published in Nature.
He laughed whenever some careless orthopod cited his article in their work of the human kneecap!
His life was possessed of a blessed irreverence & he took great delight in challenging the status quo.
He was an amazing raconteur & told the most amazing & often self deprecating anecdotes which I will remember with fondness.
Our paths would cross at conferences & while we rarely disagreed, we did so gracefully (well he did!)

Prof Nicholas Gordon Lennox   2/03/2022 1:55:25 PM

I can only but endorse Paul's and David's comments above. He was a delight to interact with as a junior member of staff, GP and new arrival at UQ. Chris was always encouraging and thoughtful and had a delightful touch of graceful whimsey. He has made a major contribution in many areas as described by Paul, including academic general practice and evidence based medicine. Thank you Chris