Published: 22 November 2018
It is with sadness that we note last week the passing of our esteemed friend and colleague, Dr TCK (Kester) Brown AM, just shy of turning 83 years old (1935-2018). Kester was a colossus of not just Australian, but World Anaesthesia, and Paediatric Anaesthesia in particular.
Kester was a stalwart of the ASA for around half a century. He was a Life Member of the ASA, and was also awarded the Gilbert Brown Award and Gilbert Troup Medal. Each year at our National Scientific Congress, the initial address during the opening plenary session delivered by the keynote invited speaker, is known as The Kester Brown Lecture. It is a mark of the highest regard with which the Society holds Kester.
From Anaesthesia and Intensive Care he was bestowed the Ben Barry Medal, while from ANZCA he received the Orton Medal and the Gilbert Brown Medal.
In addition, Kester enjoyed a long involvement with the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA), including holding the position of WFSA President from 2000 to 2004. He was Chair of the World Congress of Anaesthesiology (WCA) Scientific Program Committee of Sydney in 1996. This WCA was a huge success.
Born, raised and schooled in Kenya, Kester graduated in Medicine from St Andrew’s University, Scotland in 1960. He spent his early medical career in Canada, and then followed the greatest love of his life, his future wife Janet, to her hometown, Melbourne.
Kester is probably best remembered for his time at an institution of global renown, the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), where he was the Director of Anaesthesia from 1974 to 2000. He was an enormous presence there as a clinician, researcher, publisher, teacher, mentor, administrator, and leader. He had the knack, all too rare in leadership of any type, in recognising the strengths of the individuals within his team, and then utilising these various talents, so that the collective output more than exceeded the sum of its parts.
Kester was a prolific scientist and author, and his name appears on 160 papers, mainly in paediatric anaesthesia. His textbook Anaesthesia for Children was a quintessential gem, and has retained a pride of place on the bookshelves of a multitude of anaesthetists. As well as being such a comprehensive tome, it was written in an eminently practical and pertinent fashion, entirely reflective of contemporary paediatric anaesthetic practice during the 80’s and 90’s.
Perhaps Kester’s greatest contribution to the ASA was being the inaugural Chair of its Overseas Development and Education Committee (ODEC). He was a champion for the training and education of anaesthetists and anaesthesiologists in both developed and developing nations. Many generations of trainees have benefited directly and indirectly from Kester’s kindness, and gentle but firm instruction. He has left an indelible impression on each of us whom he enlightened. At the RCH, not only did Kester guide the formation of scores of local registrars over the years, but he also welcomed and hosted approximately a hundred visitors to our shores from 40 different nations. They would return home as fellow educators and supervisors.
Extraordinarily, Kester taught and lectured in 70 countries. Within and without the sphere of Anaesthesia, Kester was a wonderful humanitarian, and was very much a citizen of the world. Apart from travel, he was passionate about a whole host of issues and entities, including his family, photography, painting, writing, gardening, and sport, notably tennis as a junior, and hockey during his university and senior years.
Kester’s other achievements are legion, and too many to list here. His most special was to be the father of his 5 children. In addition, Janet and he were loving grandparents 13 times.
Kester’s legacy is enormous. He will be missed immensely.