Prof Max Kamien appointed President of the Western Australian Medical Museum

Amanda Lyons

11/05/2018 1:35:14 PM

A prestigious career in general practice and a lifelong interest in medical history has contributed to Professor Kamien’s selection as President.

The collections of the Western Australian Medical Museum are kept within the heritage-listed Harvey House.
The collections of the Western Australian Medical Museum are kept within the heritage-listed Harvey House.

‘The first thing you see is a plaque and it tells the story of Dr Holland, who did the longest house call in the world in 1917,’ Professor Kamien explained to newsGP. ‘He went from Perth to Halls Creek to try and help a stockman who had ruptured his urethra in a horse accident. It was that event that triggered the idea of the Flying Doctors Service.
‘So that’s what greets you as you go in. It’s a real piece of history that all Australians should know a bit about.’
That is Emeritus Professor, winner of the RACGP’s 2015 Rose-Hunt Award and current Chair of the RACGP National Archives Committee Professor Max Kamien describing what visitors to the Western Australian Medical Museum (WAMM) see as they enter the building.
Professor Kamien can now also add President of the WAMM to his list of achievements and, as President, he has some goals in mind for WAMM – forging a closer relationship between the museum and the RACGP chief among them.
‘I can see a mutual benefit. From the museum’s point of view, to get more publicity among doctors and registrars for what they do. And from the RACGP’s point of view, to interest the registrars and doctors and medical students much more in the history of medicine,’ he said.
‘My view is that it’s hard to claim you are an educated doctor if you don’t know where you’ve come from. The ones who really upset me are those who say, “I’m not interested in what’s happened in the past, I just want to get on with the future”, and then go on to make the mistakes they should have known about [from history].’
RACGP WA’s history is already intertwined with the WAMM, which has its home in the heritage-listed Harvey House in Subiaco. After the X-ray department of the King Edward Memorial Hospital vacated it in 1979, Harvey House was offered to the RACGP as its headquarters in WA.
‘After much umming and erring, the RACGP turned it down for two reasons,’ Professor Kamien said.
‘One was that it was too big at that time. The second reason was that the RACGP had to pay for the upkeep of the building.
‘So it was then offered to a small group of people who were interested in medical history.’
The WAMM receives no funding other than what it collects from its entry fee – $4 for adults, $1 for children – and also from the annual Leavesley lecture, named for its previous President, which costs $25 to attend.
It is also run and staffed entirely by volunteers, such as museum curator Caroline Wilson, a former Head Nurse at the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, and Patron Harry Cohen, who was that hospital’s head obstetrician.
‘The museum is an absolute credit to the volunteers,’ Professor Kamien said. ‘Not only are they very passionate about what they do, but they are extremely knowledgeable.
‘In the course of my interest in medical history, and as the Chair of the Archives Committee, I visit other museums and collections and come across unlabelled artefacts.
‘If I don’t know what they are, I go to David Dammery, the curator of the RACGP Archives collection. If he doesn’t know, I ask a retired doctor named John Allsop, a man of immense knowledge and great interest in medical history. If David doesn’t know and John doesn’t know, then I give up.
‘But I’ve now found that if I take the artefact or send a photo to the WAMM, they will come up with the answer. Sometimes they know it straight away, or sometimes they have to go through their volumes of catalogues.’
Professor Kamien firmly believes the knowledge and dedication on display at the museum deserves wider exposure and interest.
‘The museum is a lovely place. It’s got a nice atmosphere and the people who show you around like doing it,’ he said.
‘The volunteers are very modest and don’t push their publicity, and I think they need some – I think they need to be a little less modest.’

Medical-history western-australia Western-Australian-Medical-Museum

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