Rear Admiral Graeme Spencer Shirtley

RADM Graeme Spencer Shirtley

Graeme Spencer Shirtley was born on 17 August 1950 at Epping NSW, to Spen and Gwen Shirtley. He was educated at Beecroft Public School and Epping Boys High School, where he completed his HSC in 1968, and won a scholarship for entry to the medical school at the University of NSW. After graduating in 1974 and subsequent residency, Graeme commenced radiology training. During his time at the Prince of Wales and Prince Henry Hospitals, Graeme met his future wife Debbie, with whom he had three children, Laura, Mark and Ian. Notwithstanding his many professional achievements, Graeme's greatest pride always remained his family.

Graeme was awarded a Diploma of Diagnostic Radiology from Sydney University in 1979 and his Fellowship from the Royal Australasian College of Radiologists (now the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists) in 1980. He was in private practice in Sydney, developing his special interests in CT imaging, musculo-skeletal imaging (particularly with ultrasound) and mammography. He was Chairman of his radiology group in 1995-99. In addition, Graeme was a senior visiting medical officer with the Central and Eastern Sydney Breast Screening Program at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital from 1989 to 2003. He was also chairman of the CT group of the RANZCR Accreditation and Quality Control Subcommittee, and the radiologist on the Professional Services Review Committee of the Health Insurance Commission. In 1992 Graeme became a Visiting Fellow in MRI at the Barrows Neurological Institute in Phoenix Arizona, and at the MRI Institute Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. He was also a member of the Radiological Society of North America.

Graeme joined the Royal Australian Naval Reserve (RANR) as a junior sailor in 1969. After topping his recruit course, he joined the medical branch as an Ordinary Sick Berth Attendant. Over the next six years he was promoted through the ranks to Leading Seaman while continuing his undergraduate medical studies.

On completing his medical degree, Graeme spent a brief period as a somewhat overqualified RANR leading seaman medic. Although this rather appealed to his sense of humour, a commission as a Lieutenant in the RANR followed in 1975. Graeme was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in 1981 and was appointed consultant radiologist to the Director General Naval Health Service in 1985. At that time he was also appointed the Deputy Senior Medical Officer (SMO) of the Sydney Port Division, and in 1986 he completed and topped his Reserve Staff Acquaint Course. That year he was also awarded the Reserve Forces Decoration (RFD).

Promotion to the rank of Commander followed in 1987 at which time Graeme became Senior Medical Officer of the Sydney Port Division. In 1991 he was appointed Acting Executive Officer of the Sydney Port Division and in 1992 he was awarded a Flag Officer's Commendation for developing a program for training of naval reservists in military medicine.

Overseas, Graeme was a visiting lecturer to the Department of Radiology National Naval Medical Centre in Bethesda Maryland USA in 1994, 1998 and 1999, for which he was awarded the US Navy and Marine Commendation Medal, and the US Navy Achievement Medal. He was also a guest lecturer at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) in Washington DC in 1998, and was appointed USUHS Adjunct Assistant Professor of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine in 2002. Graeme researched the US military experience with computed and digital radiography systems, with a view to their implementation into the ADF as part of Joint Project 2060. He was a member of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States and was appointed to its International Committee in 2006.

Graeme was promoted to Captain on 31 December 1998 and appointed Director Health Reserves-Navy the following day. In July 2000 he was appointed the inaugural chairman of the National Reserve Health Triumvirate. While DHR-N, Graeme worked to achieve rank equity for Navy health officers with the aim of bringing them into line with their Army and Air Force counterparts. Other issues he tackled included training, age of retirement and a new scheme of complement for naval health specialist reservists. During that time, Graeme was the Reserve representative on the Naval Health Board Advisory Council. He also published articles concerning ADF Health and Australian Military Medicine and the military aspects of ultrasonography, telemedicine, virtual endoscopy and the future restructuring of the Navy Reserve Health Branch.

On 27 September 2002 Graeme was promoted to Commodore and appointed assistant Surgeon General of the Australian Defence Force (SGADF) - Navy. In this role he liaised with State Departments of Health to establish strategic alliances with the teaching hospitals to increase the experience of Permanent Force doctors, nurses and medics in trauma management. Graeme also established 'mini- fellowships' in trauma management in South Africa for reserve surgeons, anaesthetists and intensivists, established an affordable pilot e-health system for the ADF, and investigated personal digital assistants as an aid in the delivery of ADF health care. In October 2004, Graeme became the first Reserve officer to undertake the Capstone program, a one week live in staff acquaint course for one-star officers.

On 9 May 2005 Graeme was promoted to Rear Admiral and appointed SGADF, the first Navy medical officer to hold the position since its establishment in the early 1980s. He was also the first medical officer to achieve the rank of Rear Admiral RANR, and the first to achieve the rank of Rear Admiral since Geoff Bayliss (DGNHS 1987-1990).

In addition to chairing the Australian Defence Human Research Ethics Committee, Graeme was Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Queensland in the Centre for Military and Veterans Health (CMVH), and Chairman of the CMVH e-Health Committee. He also continued to conduct courses in ultrasound for trauma surgeons, as part of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons teaching program. On 04 July 2008, with the restructure of the senior ADF health leadership, Graeme was appointed Surgeon General Defence Health Reserves until 31 December 2008. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the Military Division in the Australia Day 2011 Honours List, for his exceptional performance of duties as a RANR medical officer.

Graeme always loved sport, both as a participant and a spectator. He represented Beecroft and later Strathfield in the Sydney Grass Court Tennis competition, and was a member of the Pennant Hills Golf Club Junior Pennant Team. Debbie later introduced Graeme to skiing, initially at Thredbo and later the Silver Star resort in Canada, which became his favourite. Following his term as Surgeon General, Graeme decided not to return to full time radiology practice but to relax a little, pursue his sporting interests and spend more time with his family. Tragically, these plans were curtailed by the onset of a brain tumour in March 2010. He underwent surgery and made a good recovery, however he died on 27 March 2012.