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Practising in PNG: pidgin, rugby and yaws


Anthony Radford was the inaugural professor of primary care at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. Before and after that appointment, he accumulated a total of 50 years of experience in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Radford first went to that country as a student in 1951; from 1963 to 1972, he was a public health officer there; and later, he consulted on PNG for the World Health Organization, UNICEF and AusAID. This book records these three phases of his service to Australia’s nearest neighbour.

As a junior doctor in PNG, Radford’s practice was remarkably broad: obstetric emergencies requiring symphysiotomy; surgery for late appendicitis; common medical conditions such as pneumonia and diarrhoea, as well as uncommon ones like yaws and leprosy. Public health was in the mix: sanitation, safe water and immunisation. And he carried out research into infectious diseases and health care delivery. Meanwhile, his colleagues there were solving the riddles of infectious diseases like pig bel (from eating uncooked pork) and kuru (from eating dead relatives).

Radford and his wife Robin embraced the different cultures of the country; all three of their children grew up speaking pidgin and were given tribal names.

Radford acquired fellowships from three Royal Colleges, a diploma in tropical medicine and a Harvard master’s degree and, in 1971, was appointed associate professor to the emerging medical…