Doctor Overcomes Adversity to Flourish in Medical Career

The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia), September 20, 2008 | Go to article overview

Doctor Overcomes Adversity to Flourish in Medical Career


A CHANCE meeting between Dr Pamela Clewett when she was medical superintendent at Dalby Hospital, and Leonard Jackson, a returned-soldier medical student working as a Queensland government auditor in Dalby during his holidays, led to a lifelong partnership and marriage which spanned medical practice, early childhood education and a rich family life.

Pamela Mary Clewett was born in 1923, the second daughter of Toowoomba solicitor Edward Clewett and his wife Claire, and a sister to Jeanette.

Her parents were advised that because of a congenital heart defect, she should do no exercise and that life expectation should not be high. Time was to prove that her prodigious talents far outweighed any such limitations.

She was an intelligent child who read voraciously.

Through her many contacts with the health profession, she developed an interest in medicine.

When she announced to her beloved father that medicine was her chosen profession, he funded her evening studies in chemistry, physics and advanced maths subjects at Toowoomba Grammar while she also completed her matriculation curriculum at Glennie Memorial School.

She was accepted into medicine at the University of Queensland in 1941, one of a small number of women undertaking the accelerated war-time medical curriculum.

It was not an easy time. A full year of the six-year course was concentrated into night lectures, holidays were cancelled and she even had to miss her sister's wedding.

The examination and tuition timetable was punishing, designed to produce well-trained doctors quickly for the war effort.

Her reminiscences of those times were published in the 2007 Trephine as part of the Queensland Medical School's 70th anniversary.

After graduating in 1946, she completed her intern year at Royal Brisbane Hospital, demanding that female residents be allowed the same exposure to the physically-demanding orthopaedic term, as male residents were.

She was posted to Toowoomba, Proserpine and Bowen General Hospitals, then to the Dalby Hospital, where her life was changed through meeting Leonard Jackson who, as a prisoner-of-war, had survived the horrors of the Sandakan-Ranau death march in Borneo, after Singapore fell to the Japanese during World War II.

In 1950, while he was studying medicine at University of Queensland, they married at St John's Cathedral, Brisbane and for 56 years until his death in 2006, remained 'partners in medicine as well as complete soul mates'.

After their marriage they lived at Hamilton, and despite medical advice regarding the risks of having children, they were to have three during the late 1950s and early 60s - Bill, Helen and Claire. …

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