Michael Hobbs interview, 24 January 2013

Dublin Core


Michael Hobbs interview, 24 January 2013




This is an interview with Emeritus Professor Michael Hobbs. Professor Hobbs studied medicine at the University of Western Australia, University of Adelaide and Oxford University. He became Associate Professor of Epidemiology in 1970 and of Social Preventative Medicine in 1974. In 1991 he became the inaugural Head of the Department of Public Health. He has worked in association with people such as Fiona Stanley and Bruce Armstrong. Professor Hobbs has been involved with numerous studies into public health, including Perinatal studies, and was part of the steering committee for the World Health Organisation study into Cardiovascular disease. He was awarded an Order of Australia medal in 1994.


Hobbs, Michael


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


John Bannister


Michael Hobbs


Interview 1: 52 minutes, 10seconds
Interview 2: 48 minutes, 42 seconds
Interview 3: 27 minutes, 3 seconds
Total: 2 hours, 7 minutes, 55 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1

00:00:00 Introduction background information. Athel Hobbs. Architect and Soldier. Desires to do architecture. Abortive year at architecture and starting medicine at UWA. Initial impression of UWA as a student. Residential college in Adelaide.
00:06:10 Making the quota. Undue stress and the general first year since degree. Memories of the Vice Chancellor Currie. Being on campus and the educative view of the world. Rowing at the University Boat Club. Community. University Liberal club. Memories of the ULC float. Frightened to do engineering because of rough initiations.
00:11:50 Students stay all day at UWA. Second year experiences at Adelaide. Integrating and self-sufficiency. Field of medicine specialisation. Undistinguished academic experiences. professorial team at Royal Perth Hospital. Specialising in internal medicine.
00:15:39 Memories and knowledge of Eric Saint and Dick Lefroy. Establishment of medical school. Book – On good Doctoring Eric Saint. Mentor. The contrast between public health system. Professors control the system. Laurie Robson*. Restraints. Suspicions of Eric Saint. Bob Godfrey puts together a team at the Children’s hospital. Attempt to increase standards.
00:21:26 Saint and Lefroy adopt a good philosophy. Inspired to work with Saint and Lefroy. Artificial kidney introduced by Lefroy. Pass exams for College of Physicians. In charge of medical unit. Deputy medical superintendent.
00:22:50 University of Western Australia in the world. 1964 experiences of going to Oxford. Donald Aitchison*. Nuffield Department of Medicine. Mike McCall.* Survey of Multiple Sclerosis. Seeing the medical school and the working of medicine. Doing a DPHil.
00:27:00 Coming back to Perth in 1967. Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital chest hospital and general hospital. Bob Elphick medical team deputy. Epidemiology and social medicine. Nothing like this is Perth. Coming back to do epidemiology research interests. Reader at Monash. Staying in Perth. Vacancy at University of Western Australia Associate Professor. 1970. Fledgling movement for development of social medicine.
00:30:54 Memories of Aitchison.* creating a picture of UWA in the 1960s. Changes to the university seen and discussed. Preclinical sites. Sinclair and Simmons. The culture of Royal Perth Hospital. King Edward Memorial and Princess Margaret Hospital.
00:33:40 Deals done for University land and University-based medical centre. University and non-University people. Research orientation. Relying on permanent medical staff. Contentious issue of payment of surgeons. Associate Professor of Epidemiology. Approach in clinical teaching. Students and patients and the calibre of student.
00:37:30 Currie, Prescott and Whelan. support from the university administration. Allan Robson’s outstanding support. The importance of funding for the university and personal career. Triennial funding and grants. Whitlam collapse changes the situation. Canberra and primary care and general practice. Max Kamien. Staying on in the University Department of Medicine. Commonwealth state funding for the unit of clinical epidemiology in the 1970s.
00:40:20 Importance of funding for research in clinical epidemiology. Developing teaching programs at Royal Perth and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. Major problems in development in public health. NH and MRC research funding. Bruce Armstrong and Fiona Stanley. Laurie Beilin sympathetic to a separate school. In the late 1980s the Commonwealth give funding for development of epidemiology and research for Masters in Public Health degrees.
00:42:00 Setting up public health at University of Western Australia and separate department in public health. Memories of Laurie Beilin. Royal Perth Hospital funded posts. Most successful academic at University of Western Australia. NH & MRC projects set up. Social concerns of Laurie Beilin* and Max Kamien. Dick Lefroy founds geriatric services.
00:46:40 Memories of Fiona Stanley overseas training fellowship in NH & MRC. Comes back to work at Charles Gairdner. Takes on the peri natal study. Forms and institute instrumental in medical record linkage in Western Australia. The outcomes of the linkage. Longitudinal studies of health, state-wide hospital reporting system. Bill Davidson. Darcy Holman*. Support of Lotteries Commission. Cancer register – mental health services register - deaths and other linked study. Health services research. Infant mortality. Money becomes available at the right time.

Interview 2

00:00:00 Eric Saint – central to the development of the medical school. Turned into the Sir Charles Gairdner site and the University hospital. Fremantle Hospital. Gordon Stevenson plan. Commissioner of public health and state functions of the university. Joint work with university people and state laboratory people. Problems ensue. Richard Court and Michael McCall*. Revitalisation of the service.
00:05:00 Charles Gairdner grows as a hospital and the main focus of the University dep. Rivalries with Royal Perth. Hospitals polarize splitting of the health department, hospitals have own appointments and chairs. Hospital politics. Experience of Wittenoom recalled. Eric Saint recognises industrial disaster in the 1950s. Jim McNalty* health minister. Long term follow up study. Brice Armstrong and Bill Musk. Eric’s deep social concern.
00:11:51 University of Western Australia and the Whitlam government, concern for social and community health. Director of Epidemiology. Health services epidemiology vs. clinical. Support for Dick Lefroy and Fiona Stanley. Seeing the community of University change. Chair in Neurology.
00:16:50 University and honorary academic titles. Research and the perinatal deaths and work done at Oxford elaborated on. University of Western Australia and international collaboration and World Health Organisation Project. MONICA Project. Registers of heart attack. Clear national differences and risk factors and randomised controls. MONIC steering committee. Wittenoom.
00:25:40 Seeing the growth of University of Western Australia and development of population health. Findings of health outcomes in prisoners. Aboriginal prisoners and health. Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal health comparison study. Professor Sandy Thomson* - interest in Indigenous health Judy Kastenberg*. Following people through their history of heart attack and associated illness. Social index.
00:32:44 Global analysis of technological change in health. Project out of Stanford.
00:36:29 Inaugural Head of Department of Public Health. Population issues and clinical medicine. Money and support. Commonwealth support. Laurie Beilin. Increase in brain mass and intellectual stimulation and postgraduate students. Chair in Public Health. University of Western Australia school in an up phase. Department and school in its own right. Amalgamation with social work.
00:42:30 Administration and leverage. David Fletcher* and Fremantle Hospital collaboration. Perinatal studies, geriatric services, gall bladder, heart disease and record linkage.
00:47:43 University of Western Australia global standing.

Interview 3

00:00:00 Involvement with scientific and professional associations. Royal Australia College of Physicians, Faculty of Public Health Medicine, Public Health Association of Australia, Australasian Epidemiological Association. Australian Medical Association. Involvement with the Silver Chain Nursing Association. Work for the Department of Health. Home and community care program. The HAC program.
00:04:26 Implicit understanding to be involved in community organisations. Order of Australia Medal. Starting professional associations. The Australian Epidemiological Association. Population medicine. Growth of Medical School. Advocacy. Curriculum review.
00:07:50 Quoting Eric Saint on the more affluent years of the 1960s. The ‘halcyon period’. Sidney Sax brings a social perspective to organisation of the health services. NH&MRC grants RAD* grants. Support of students and placement of individuals abroad and at home.
00:11:00 Fiona Stanley and Bruce Armstrong go onto bigger things. Teaching and advice. Change of the sense of community. Changes in technology and affects at the university. Difficult to enthuse undergraduate medical students. The changing face of the university student.
00:17:05 Areas of success in student medical research. International students. Problems with the education of Malaysian students. UWA and the international arena.
00:22:45 Recognition of low numbers of medical students. Pressures of increased student numbers. Competition between universities and the academic standing of University of Western Australia. Proposed merger with Murdoch. Good times and bad times. Views of University of Western Australia today.
00:27:02 End of session



Hobbs, Michael, “Michael Hobbs interview, 24 January 2013,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024, https://oralhistories.arts.uwa.edu.au/items/show/45.