Myers, Nate AM

  • Nathaniel Albert Alfred Myers, AM, MD, FRACS, FRCS 

    Courtesy of Nate's colleague Durham Smith, who wrote this obituary for publication in Pediatr.Surg.Int (21st April 2004)


    Colleagues will be saddened to hear of the death of Nate Myers on 7 January 2004. He was 81 years of age. There have been few in paediatric surgery who have contributed more. Nate was educated at University High School, Melbourne, winning the State Exhibition in Chemistry and a Commonwealth Scholarship to study medicine. He graduated with honours in 1945, followed by residency at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. From 1946 to 1954 he remained at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, including 3 years as Chief Resident. For a while was undecided as to his career pathway, seriously considering paediatric psychiatry at one stage. To the benefit of thousands of children with surgical lesions, he chose surgery. He was seconded during this period to the RMH for surgical training, gaining his FRACS, and proceeded to the Hospital for Sick Children in London for 2 years’ further experience. In his second year there he was registrar to Mr David Waterston, which sealed his lifelong interest in thoracic surgery. It was here that he met and married his first wife, Anne, and they had four talented children—Jane, John, Carolyn and Richard.

    Returning to Melbourne, he was appointed to the Senior Staff of the Royal Children’s Hospital in 1957 and remained there for another 45 years, variously as Senior Surgeon–Head of Unit, Chairman of the Department of Surgery, and, after retirement, Senior Consultant. He was never completely fulltime at the hospital, as was the usual pattern of attending Consultants, but maintained an extensive private practice and had appointments at other hospitals, especially at St Francis Cabrini Hospital. His RCH position involved undergraduate and postgraduate teaching all his life as part of the University of Melbourne Clinical School, and of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons training programs for registrars. He was an active member of many hospital sub-committees including a period as Chairman of the Senior Medical Staff.

    Although Nate Myers was experienced in most areas of paediatric surgery, thoracic surgery was his particular area of expertise. He was involved at the RCH in the early development of cardiac surgery, but he will be remembered most for his monumental work on oesophageal atresia. Together with the late Russell Howard, Nate was one of the pioneers and a world authority in the surgery of this condition. His monograph is a classic (earning an MD), and his advice was constantly sought in international meetings. As a clinical surgeon he had superb diagnostic ability, huge experience and an unsurpassed rapport with children and parents. He truly loved children and they loved him, and his holistic care was total. He had great affinity in working with colleagues of other disciplines, and his years of paediatrics before surgery gave him a formidable understanding of non-surgical conditions.

    In the RACS he was a founder member of the Board of Paediatric Surgery, playing an active role in the development of the specialty, Chairman of the Victorian State Committee and Chairman of the Archives Com- mittee. He lectured extensively overseas, contributed to a dozen books and over 70 scientific articles, and was the Australasian Editor of Pediatric Surgery International. He was an Honorary Member of the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons and of other international societies, spent time as President of the Australasian Association of Paediatric Surgeons and President of the Pacific Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and became a Hunterian Professor of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1973. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1981.

    Nate will also be remembered for his generosity of spirit, not only for his dedication to parents and children but also in his thoughtfulness to colleagues and friends in countless ways. He was a great party man, played good tennis and was an avid cricket fan, but nothing stirred his enthusiasm like barracking for the Geelong football team.

    In later life he married Julie Nicol, and with her two sons he enjoyed a wider family for 16 years. Julie gave great joy to Nate and cared for him devotedly, especially in the last tragic year of his life when he required constant hospice care.