Campbell, Kate (1899–1986)

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Campbell, Kate (1899–1986)

Australian pediatrician of international renown. Born Kate Isabel Campbell at Hawthorn, Melbourne, in 1899; died on July 12, 1986; only daughter and third of four children of Janet Duncan (Mill) Campbell (a schoolteacher) and Donald Campbell (a shipping clerk); attended Methodist Ladies' College; University of Melbourne, MB BS, 1922, MD, 1924.

Born just before the turn of the century in Hawthorn, Melbourne, Kate Campbell was to maintain a dedication to children's health care that would lead to an internationally acclaimed career in pediatrics. Her parents were determined that their only daughter receive a good education, and it was important to her mother that Kate have access to an independent livelihood. Kate's schooling began at the primary school in Hawthorn, after which she attended the Methodist Ladies' College on scholarship. With her parents' support, she entered the University of Melbourne medical school (1917), again with a scholarship, where she was one of 26 women in a class of 160 men; this was an unusually large number of women for the era, due to the absence of men who were away at war.

After graduation with her MB BS in 1922, Campbell turned her interest to health problems of babies and young children, and she applied to the Royal Children's Hospital for her residency. The hospital, however, was unwilling to admit female doctors and resisted her application until finally pressured to appoint her. In addition to her work at the Royal Children's Hospital, Campbell served as a resident medical officer at the Royal Women's Hospital until 1927. With a concentration on young children, she studied for her doctorate in medicine, graduating in 1924 with her MD.

During the early stages of the Infant Welfare movement in Victoria of the 1920s, Campbell maintained a general medical practice in Essendon for ten years and became an important voice in health care for children. Appointed medical officer for the Victorian Baby Health Centres Association, she would hold the post for more than 40 years. Campbell lectured nurses, and her ideas have been credited with preventing the rigidity of Truby King methods from prevailing in Victoria. In 1929, she was appointed the University of Melbourne's inaugural lecturer in neo-natal pediatrics and would continue in this capacity until 1965.

In private practice as a Collins St. specialist in pediatrics (from 1937), Campbell quickly became a nationally acclaimed pediatrician known for her brilliant diagnostic skills. Called the doyen of pediatrics by one admiring colleague, she was consulted by other specialists who were facing particularly difficult cases. Together with Vera Scantlebury Brown and A. Elizabeth Wilmot , Campbell authored the Guide to the Care of the Young Child for the Department of Health; the publication saw six editions between 1947 and 1972. In 1947, she was particularly pleased with her part in introducing unrestricted visiting in children's hospitals.

In 1951, the cause of retrolental fibroplasia, a disease that results in blindness of premature babies, was discovered by Campbell, and this important breakthrough brought international recognition upon publication of her study in the Medical Journal of Australia. In 1964, she shared the first Encyclopaedia Britannica award for medicine. Additional honors followed with an honorary LLD (Melbourne) in 1966 and, for her services to Australian medicine, the DBE in 1971. In her 80s, Campbell described her special interests as "the newborn infant, child welfare, the status of women." She died on July 12, 1986, after more than a half century of work on behalf of children's health.

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Campbell, Kate (1899–1986)

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