Monday, 24 April 2017

Australian military doctors and scientists recognised in latest book

Associate Professor Geoff Quail
In his recent book, former Monash University lecturer and surgeon Associate Professor Geoff Quail reveals how past Australian military mistakes led to devastating health consequences for personnel.

Published last month, Lessons Learned: The Australian Military and Tropical Medicine recognises the Army’s Tropical Disease Research units and the efforts of individuals in helping the military succeed in battle.

Associate Professor Quail said he was compelled to write the booked as there had been no comprehensive assessment of the very substantial contribution of the Australian Army doctors and scientists since the inception of the Australian Army Medical Corps in 1901.

“Historically, prolonged campaigns have frequently been won or lost because of greater fitness of one of the combatant armies,” said Associate Professor Quail.

“In the twentieth century, infection was still a major problem contributing substantially to the necessity of withdrawal from Gallipoli and the near defeat of the Allies due to malaria in the Second World War's Pacific campaign.  Malaria emerged again as a major problem in the Vietnam War.” 

Associate Professor Quail said we ignore the past at our peril. 

“In hindsight it is difficult to understand why past failures were disregarded when it was known that health of the contingent is pivotal to success in the field.”

“The Australian Army Medical Corps learned from past medical experience, however, errors leading to significant morbidity did occur mainly in relation to malaria, in particular inadequate prophylactic measures, early in the New Guinea campaign of World War Two.”

“The failure to perceive the threat of emerging resistant strains of malaria in the 1960s and military commanders not fully implementing the recommendations of their medical advisers were other mistakes.”

Many Australian military campaigns and deployments have taken place in the tropics where infection is still a major concern. 

“It is not well known that Australian military doctors and scientists have made, and continue to make through the Australian Malaria Institute, a substantial contribution to tropical medicine,” said Associate Professor Quail. 

“Their work extends well beyond the requirements of the military, greatly improving health outcomes for people residing in the tropics.”

Two institutions, the Land Headquarters Medical Research Unit led by Brigadier Hamilton Fairley in World War Two and the today's Army Malaria Institute in Townsville have world-wide reputations for the quality of their research.

Associate Professor Quail’s book recognises the efforts and details the scientific work of both individuals and the Australian Army's Tropical Research units in protecting the health of Army personnel whilst on deployment and the potential benefits of its finding for all people in the tropics.

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