Ken Davis

Kenneth George Davis AMKenneth George Davis AM (29/12/1945 – 16/07/2017)

On Friday 21st July nearly 200 people, including devoted family members, supported by friends and colleagues, farewelled Ken Davis in the tranquil setting of Partridge House in Adelaide. Ken, a highly respected Scottish-born gentleman contributed so much to laboratory medicine, transfusion science and patient blood management in Australia. Ken was born in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland. He graduated as a fellow of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (UK) in 1969 majoring in haematology, blood transfusion and microbiology.

Ken originally came to Australia in 1975 with his wife, Cate, a trained nurse. He was soon into haematology and transfusion medicine as a scientific officer in charge at the IMVS Modbury Hospital branch pathology. After a brief return to his homeland, he and Cate decided Australia was to be their homeland and, like many Scots, they would become passionate about Australia and they worked hard to contribute to the life and development of the nation. To ensure he became infused with the spirit of Oz Ken worked as chief medical technologist and laboratory manager in Coonabarabran, NSW before accepting, in 1979, his main career position as head of transfusion medicine at the Royal Adelaide Hospital where he worked until his retirement in 2012. Becoming an Australian citizen on 26 July 1995 he confirmed his commitment to being an “Aussie” for the next 22 years, on the condition that he did not have to relinquish his Scottish accent. Thankfully, he never did.

Ken made an enormous contribution to the field of transfusion medicine over an extended period, particularly through his involvement with the Australian and New Zealand Society of Blood Transfusion. He was member of Council for 12 years, being President (2003-2007), Honorary Secretary and on several other committees. Ken was passionate about improving patient safety though development of clinical guidelines, introducing clinical practice improvements and furthering learning. Ken was widely respected for his knowledge and expertise as well as for his personal characteristics of kindness, professionalism and decency. He was honoured by the Society with the Ruth Sanger Oration and Medal (2012), the Peter Schiff Award (2009) and Life Membership.

Ken held various advisory positions with Australian Red Cross Blood Service and South Australian User Groups. He also advised South Australian Health though the Blood Management Council and The Blood Sector Advisory Committee.

Ken being appointed to Membership of the Order of Australia in 2016, was not only an honour that he and his family cherished, but a confirmation that he fulfilled his life-long ambition to make significant contributions to medical science in Australia. To many at the celebration of Ken’s life, him leaving us on the 16th July 2017, the 48th anniversary of the successful Apollo 11 mission to the moon landing on the 20th July, seemed so appropriate.

It is not surprising that Ken achieved so much, in view of his personal characteristics and skills. You could only like Ken, with his quiet manner, meticulousness, firmness and high emotional intelligence. Ken was a communicator par excellence, a problem identifier and committed problem solver and a born teacher/mentor.

Restructuring of the blood sector in Australia, following the Stevens Review, with the setting up of the National Blood Authority in 2003 was a major event that positioned Australia to better integrate transfusion medicine and patient blood management. Ken was one of the first laboratory scientists to see a vision for the future and the many ways forward. The HAA 2003 annual scientific meeting was a critical event in Adelaide at which ANZSBT, with Ken as President, progressed patient blood management onto the national agenda. In so doing ANZSBT was rejuvenated as the key professional society in transfusion medicine and an expanding membership encompassing, laboratory science, medicine, apheresis and nursing. In some ways the rest is history.

Australia now has an international profile in patient blood management and the integration of the blood sector with an appropriate focus on both the patient and the blood donor. Ken was a member of Steering Committees and Working Groups of the National Blood Authority from 2006-2014 in the development of the national patient blood management guidelines. Ken was a key initiator in achieving the inclusion of transfusion medicine into hospital accreditation and ultimately into the current National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards for hospital accreditation under Standard 7.

Ken, a true gentleman, will be sadly missed, but not forgotten. His legacy will remain with us through his family, friends, colleagues and students. Blood donors and patients have much to thank “behind the scenes Ken” for ensuring that the gift of altruistically donated blood is used safely and appropriately for the benefit of patients. Thank you Ken from us all. Ken leaves his loving wife Cate, daughter Lynne, son Kevin and three grandchildren, Tyler, Gemma & Zara.

James Isbister, Anne Fletcher and David Roxby