|Date of birth:
||14 July 1900
|Place of birth:
||Carlton, Victoria, Australia
|Date of death:
||7 February 1984
|Place of death:
||East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
||Sir Clive Hamilton Fitts was born in 1900 and educated at Scotch College, Melbourne Grammar and the University of Melbourne (MB, 1926; MD, 1929; BS, 1931), entering Trinity College in 1919. Despite residencies at the Alfred and Children’s hospitals, Fitts failed to gain further appointments before the Depression worsened his prospects. He was employed as a medical officer with the Commonwealth Department of Health, working successively at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at the University of Sydney (DTM, 1930), the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Melbourne, and the Quarantine Service, where he so enjoyed the hazards of boarding ships that in 1931 he became surgeon in a tramp-steamer, bound eventually for Europe. In London he secured appointment as house physician, surgeon and assistant-superintendent at the Brompton Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest, and, after three months as acting-superintendent of the British Sanatorium in Switzerland, became medical superintendent (1933-34) at the National Heart Hospital, London, with (Sir) John Parkinson as mentor and later friend. In 1933 he was made a member of the Royal College of Physicians (fellow 1938). On his return to Melbourne Fitts persuaded the warden of Trinity College to create the post of resident medical tutor. He gained appointments as honorary physician to out-patients at St Vincent’s Hospital (1935-40), to the thoracic department at the Austin Hospital (1939-66) and to out-patients (1939-47) and in-patients (1947-60) at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
Fitts had served with the Australian Army Medical Corps, Militia, from 1927 (major 1934), but was prevented by a stomach ulcer from joining the Australian Imperial Force. In June-November 1941 he carried out full-time service as staff officer to Major General Rupert Downes [q.v.8], accompanying him on his tour of inspection of medical facilities in North Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. Fitts championed cardiology as a separate discipline, guiding the creation of the Royal Melbourne’s cardiac department. He also welcomed the establishment of clinical chairs in the faculty of medicine, although it ended the dominance of hospital honoraries over clinical training. In 1948 he held a Carnegie travelling fellowship in the USA, and in 1959 undertook a Colombo Plan assignment comparing medical conditions in Malaya, Thailand and Burma. He was also active in many medical organisations, including the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (foundation fellow 1938; councillor 1952-61; vice-president 1956-58) and the National Heart Foundation of Australia, which he helped to establish in 1961. On his retirement (1960) from the RMH he became an honorary consulting physician. He was knighted in 1963.
An eloquent speaker, Fitts gave many public addresses, including the Sir Richard Stawell, the (Joseph) Bancroft and the (Lord) Lister orations, and the Tudor Edwards memorial lecture at the Royal College of Physicians, London). He conducted his large private practice from rooms in leafy Parliament Place, a pleasant walk from the Melbourne Club, of which he was an assiduous member (president 1965), as he was of the Savage Club and the less formal Beefsteak and Wallaby clubs and the Boobooks. He was also a member of the councils of the University of Melbourne (1951-53, 1955-71), MCEGS (1960-69) and St Hilda’s College, and became a fellow of Trinity College in 1980.
Fitts was also a passionate book lover, active on the board of Melbourne University Press and with the Friends of the Baillieu Library. His encounter in 1946 with a young patient, Margaret Stones, prompted him to recruit his friends (Sir) Russell Grimwade and (Sir) Daryl Lindsay to help launch her career as a botanical artist. In turn, Lindsay recruited him as founding president (1947) of the National Gallery Society, and in 1955 he joined the Felton Bequests Committee (chairman 1965-75), the functions of which he reformed by introducing selective grants for medical research and projects for social betterment, while defending its reliance on overseas advisers for art purchases for the gallery. Sir Clive Fitts died on 7 February 1984 in East Melbourne and was cremated.