Obituary – Dr Patricia Mackay
Dr Patricia Mackay’s outstanding contribution to the Australian community for more than 50 years, particularly her advances in patient safety and surgery, will be remembered following her death earlier this month.
Born in New Zealand in a small town south of Dunedin, Dr Mackay started her medical journey at the Otago Medical School. In an interview with Dr Christine Ball in 2008, Dr Mackay said that at medical school she was assigned to undertake a caesarean section by herself, and despite the obstetrician saying she shouldn’t worry about anaesthetic because the baby was dead, the baby turned out to be alive. Dr Mackay said this moment made her career.
Dr Mackay made the move to Australia to take the post-graduate examination. She started as a clinical assistant at the Alfred and Royal Melbourne Hospital. Dr Mackay had a long and proud history at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. She was the first female appointed as Head of Anaesthesia in 1984, a position she held until 1992. Dr Mackay established the first acute pain management unit in Victoria while at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
She was among a small group of anaesthetists who founded the Australian Patient Safety Foundation and started the Anaesthetic Incident Monitoring Study, a national anonymous collection of incidents with the objective of finding out things that went wrong. The study continues to this day.
Dr Mackay held Secretary and Treasurer positions before taking on the role as President of the Australian Society of Anaesthetists from 1966-1968. She served as chair of the Victorian Consultative Council on Anaesthetic Mortality and Morbidity from 1991 until 2005.
In 1999, the AMA granted a life membership to Dr Mackay, and she was awarded the AMA Women in Medicine Award in 2001. She was also awarded the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists Medal. In 2008, Dr Mackay was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia – for service to medicine in the field of clinical anaesthesia, particularly as a contributor to the improvement of quality and safety of patient care, and to the community.
Dr Mackay made remarkable contributions to medicine, especially her efforts in patient safety. She was a wonderful role model for generations of anaesthetists, both male and female, and her passion and dedication to the profession will not be forgotten.