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'Workaphile' professor had a 25-hour day

Graham Burrows.
Graham Burrows. Photo: Supplied

GRAHAM

BURROWS

Mental health expert

17-6-1938 – 10-1-2016

"I am campaigning for a 25-hour day," Professor Graham Burrows sometimes declared. And little wonder. His normal working day as a mental-health clinician, researcher, mentor and advocate was beyond busy -- starting with a ward round at 7am (after walking the dog), he would rarely return home before 10pm. But Burrows shunned the description of "workaholic" – he loved to work and saw himself as a "workaphile". He told his students that you did not read his CV (200 pages plus) -- you weighed it. 

Graham Dene Burrows AO, who has died aged 77, was a prominent figure in Australian and international psychiatry.  Born in New Zealand, he was educated at Auckland Grammar School before gaining a BSc degree majoring in zoology and later graduating in medicine from Otago University. He moved to Victoria in 1967 where he joined the Victorian Mental Health Authority and was appointed medical superintendent at Aradale Mental Hospital in Ararat for two years. He undertook further training at Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital and became involved in research in affective disorders. With the support of Dr John Cade, he set up Melbourne's first Lithium Clinic.

In 1973 he was appointed first assistant under the Foundation Cato Professor Brian Davies at Melbourne University. From 1983 he became the foundation professor and director of psychiatry at the Austin and Larundel Hospitals, later known as Austin Health.  His team was known as the "A Team". Burrows was dedicated to improving the lives of people with mental illness. He was actively involved in the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), in the promotion of psychiatry within the Australian Medical Association (AMA), and in advocacy for the mentally ill at state, federal and international levels. Many Australian psychiatrists will remember Burrows' teaching, underpinned by many years of clinical experience. He was to many, not just a teacher, but a mentor and career facilitator.

For 25 years Burrows was an innovator in clinical service. He established Australia's first mother-baby unit at Larundel hospital, as well as an eating-disorders unit at the Austin where he championed consultation-liaison psychiatry,  leading to the development of an internationally recognised Spinal Injuries Unit. In the early 1990s he launched a consultation-liaison psychiatric service at Fairfield Hospital for patients with HIV/AIDS. He also established Australia's first veterans PTSD treatment programs at Heidelberg Repatriation in 1995. 

Along with other psychiatric colleagues, Burrows founded The Melbourne Clinic, Australia's premier private psychiatric hospital. He facilitated a connection with the University, leading to active postgraduate education and peer review programs at the hospital. 

Graham was heavily involved over an extended period with the RANZCP serving on the Victorian Branch Committee (including extensive periods as Chair) almost continuously since 1970 and as a member of the General Council between 1983 and 1997. He was influential in establishing the College's board of research and in 1984 was the inaugural chair of the Board. He was also a key player in the establishment of the college's section of social and cultural psychiatry. Graham was awarded the RANZCP (Vic Branch) meritorious award in 2008.

He made numerous contributions to research in depression and anxiety, authoring or co-authoring more than 104 books/chapters and publishing over 743 scientific articles. In 1981, he received the RANZCP Senior Research Award. He was the first psychiatrist to be awarded the doctor of science degree from the University of Melbourne in 2004. 

Together with academic colleagues he initiated a national forum for psychiatric research in Australia, leading to the establishment of the Australian Society for Psychiatric Research in 1978 which continues today as the Society for Mental Health Research. Internationally, he had prominent roles with the Collegium Internationale Neuropsychopharmacologium, World Psychiatric Association, International Stress and Behaviour Society and World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry.

Throughout his career, Graham combined academic psychiatry with advocacy for the mentally ill through his involvement with the AMA (Victoria), membership of numerous Government committees and advisory groups and voluntary organisations. Graham, with others, established the Mental Health Foundation of Australia in 1981. He was a strong promoter of community education and destigmatisation of mental health. He was also influential in the establishment of support groups for Eating Disorder, Mood and Anxiety Disorders and family support groups. 

In 1989 Burrows was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO). He was a president of  Alzheimer's Australia (Vic), foundation chairman of the Mental Health Foundation, foundation president of  Mental Health Foundation Victoria and a kinght commander of justice with the Order of St John of Jerusalem. He was also patron and benefactor of the East West Centre where a wing is named after him at the boys orphanage. A keen horseman himself, he was medical director of Riding for the Disabled.

He retired from formal academic positions in 2009 but continued his association with the university and the teaching of medical students in his role as a private consultant psychiatrist at The Melbourne Clinic.

Burrows was devoted to his family and the highlight of each year was the annual ski holiday with children and grandchildren to various parts of the world. A man with a wonderful sense of humour, he was generous and compassionate, with a door that was always open to patients, staff and colleagues. 

Graham Burrows is survived by his wife of 48 years, Barbara, children Kerryn and Paul and their families.