public health

Feb 16, 2012

Doctors writing and righting the world: a Varuna event paying tribute to Dr Eric Dark

 Apart from the early fifties, when he bought a farm and explored sustainable agriculture, Dr Dark continued practising medicine from the first World War until for

Melissa Sweet — Health journalist and <a href=Croakey co-ordinator" class="author__portrait">

Melissa Sweet

Health journalist and Croakey co-ordinator

This post may be of particular interest to doctors who are interested in writing, or those interested in the links between medicine and creativity.

It comes from Lis Bastian, Chief Executive Officer of Varuna, The Writers’ House, at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.

Lis Bastian writes:

In March we’re holding the inaugural Dr Eric Dark Memorial Dinner and “Doctors Who …” Create, Innovate, Advocate & Collaborate program.

Dr Eric Dark (1889-1987) was a first World War hero, medical practitioner, medical writer, early environmentalist and rock climber, and one of Australia’s leading advocates for improving social, economic and environmental conditions to build the “health of the nation” (more about him is at the bottom of this post).

Varuna, now a national residential writers’ house, was once his home. Dr Dark wrote a number of books, including “Medicine and the Social Order”, and his legacy is being celebrated with the inaugural Dr Eric Dark Memorial Dinner at the Fairmont Resort on Saturday 10th March. The Blue Mountains community is invited to attend this event to celebrate the life of one of its leading early members.

The lecture will be presented by Associate Professor Grant Blashki, of the Nossal Institute for Global Health & Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, co-founder of Doctors for the Environment Australia and lead editor of General Practice Psychiatry published by McGraw Hill.

It will be followed by a Q & A panel: Doctors Writing/Righting the World.

From the personal to the political, the panel and their audience will be invited to discuss how creativity, innovation, advocacy and collaboration can contribute to building the “health of the nation.”

The panel includes:

■ Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans: surgeon, former politician and NSW president of the Doctors Reform Society of Australia (of which Dr Eric Dark was a lifetime member), peace activist, president of the Non-Smokers Movement from 1984 to 1997 and a member of Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions (BUGA UP)

■ Dr Leah Kaminsky: poet, short story writer, deputy editor of poetry and fiction for the Medical Journal of Australia, literary director of Tashmadada and editor of “The Pen and the Stethoscope”

 Dr Hilton Koppe: GP at Lennox Head, senior medical educator with North Coast GP Training and facilitator of “Beyond the Medical Record” – Creative Writing Workshops for Doctors

■ Dr Michelle Cahill: co-editor of Mascara Literary Review, poet and novelist

 Dr Loubna Haikal: Novelist, playwright, co-founder of the Andalusian-Arabic choir, theatre director

■ Dr Tony Chu: founder & former President of the Creative Doctors Network and Doc Art Festival. He is also the founder/convener for NAFA [Networking Action for Filmmakers & Actors]; Festival Director of Show-Fest International and Medical Coordinator for MACA [Medical And Corporate Actors].

The MC is Dr Tanveer Ahmed – psychiatrist, author and opinion columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Because Dr Dark was a keen car enthusiast and environmentalist we are also having test-drives of electric bikes and the fully electric Tesla Roadster at the event.

Other highlights include:

• a one week writing retreat for doctors from 5th -12th March at Varuna

• a two day writing workshop with doctor-writers Hilton Koppe and Leah Kaminsky (author of “The Pen and the Stethoscope”) – 10th & 11th March

• bushwalks to Dark’s Cave and abseiling in the spots Dr Eric Dark frequented

• the launch of the Andrea Stretton library in Dr Dark’s former home, Varuna.

More information is at our website.


More about Dr Eric Dark

Dr Eric Dark is second from right

 Apart from the early fifties, when he bought a farm and explored sustainable agriculture, Dr Dark continued practising medicine from the first World War until forced by government regulations to retire at age 85.

He was awarded the Military Cross for evacuating wounded under fire in Belgium during the first World War and served part time in the Volunteer Defence Corps from 1942-1945. During the second World War he was commended for his work of training men in the skills of bushcraft and exploring the Blue Mountains for suitable guerrilla bases in the event of a Japanese invasion.

Dr Dark was involved in obtaining local community improvements such as a children’s library, healthy `Oslo’ lunches at the school, childcare facilities and a current affairs library.

His concern for freedom of speech led to his becoming a vice-president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties and found further expression in The Press against the People (1949).  He later joined the Australian Peace Council.

In 1957 he was appointed school medical officer in the Blue Mountains. Enjoying this kind of social medicine, he worked until forced by government regulations to retire, aged 85. He was awarded life membership of the Doctors’ Reform Society of New South Wales (1981) and the Sydney Rock-Climbing Club.





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