Bequest supports new health research
A generous bequest from an Adelaide family with a distinguished reputation in obstetrics is helping to give children a healthy start to life.
When the phone rang in the Davey household after midnight in the early 1900s, a birth was imminent and Dr Llewellin Davey, one of South Australia's top obstetricians of this era, would dash off into the night like a superhero.
It is one of the memories Jean Lang (nee Davey) recalls of the years her family spent in Laura, a town in the southern Flinders Ranges, as her father established an obstetrics and gynaecology practice for women in the area.
"We would be lying in bed listening to the rain pelting down on the tin roof, then the telephone would ring and Father would have a brief discussion with the expectant mother. Shortly afterward, we would hear his footsteps outside, passing our bedroom window and off into the night to deliver a baby," Jean recalls.
The busy practice started in the Davey family home in Laura until Dr Davey opened the Laura Hospital which also admitted general patients.
"We were never allowed to have a dog when my father was practising from home. He said the patients might pat the dog and it could spread germs," Jean said.
In 1921, with their three children, Margaret, Geoff and Jean, Dr Davey and his wife Doris (nee Peacock) moved from Laura to St Peters, where Dr Davey again practised from his home.
The couple's eldest child, Margaret, took a particular interest in her father's profession and often assisted with administrative work and got to know some of the patients. However, Dr Davey discouraged his daughter from pursuing this developing interest in obstetrics and gynaecology and Margaret instead enrolled in Zoology at the University of Adelaide in 1935.
Margaret spent the next 25 years working as a demonstrator to students in Medicine and Agricultural Science. She used her artistic skills to create wax models of internal organs for the Zoology departments, some of which are still on exhibit today.
Margaret then dedicated the rest of her life to charity work, community service organisations such as the Red Cross and working towards the advancement of women in society.
Her long-running association with the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) led to her becoming its Adelaide President, and also to her involvement with the National Council of Women of Australia (NCWA). Margaret represented the organisation in several overseas visits and was recognised with an MBE in 1963 and a CBE in 1981.
When Margaret passed away in 2010 at the age of 95, she remembered several charities and community organisations in her will. A significant bequest was left to the University of Adelaide's Obstetrics and Gynaecology department in the name of Margaret and Llewellin Davey.
"Margaret left money to a number of causes and was always interested in research work. She enjoyed her time at the University of Adelaide and thought it was a good university," Jean said.
The Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor Justin Beilby, values the contribution of bequests which support the acceleration of great advances and outcomes in health research.
"The importance of bequests such as Margaret's cannot be understated. They allow the funding of new research, provide support for exploratory projects that lead to more successful grants and crucially, provide additional funds to attract new outstanding researchers that can be difficult to source under traditional funding. Margaret and Llewellin Davey's dedication to obstetrics and gynaecology will have a lasting effect with this bequest. ■
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Story by Connie Dutton