Eric Fran Gartrell

The real founder of cardiology in Adelaide was Dr Eric Frank Gartrell. Eric graduated from the Adelaide University in 1920. He was a contemporary of Howard Florey and quickly went over to London to further his career. He obtained his membership of the Royal College of Physicians in 1924 and following that worked for two years at the National Hospital for Diseases of the Heart. He returned to Adelaide soon after and introduced to Adelaide the first ECG.  He was shortly afterwards appointed to record and report on ECGs at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. And formed the Electrocardiographic Department. He was an Assistant Physician at the Royal Adelaide hospital form 1943 onwards and was finally appointed to be Honorary Physician.

He was outwardly a gentle man, but had an unsuspected tenacity shown by his lifetime consuming efforts to rid the southern ocean of all forms of fish. He was also a man of considerable integrity and propriety. These qualities showed and perhaps as a result of this he was the first man to really make a crack in the defensive wall of general physicians of the hospital when others before him had tried and failed.

In 1951 he was allowed to establish the first special clinic at the Royal Adelaide Hospital – a Consultative Cardiac Clinic to be run in conjunction with the ECG Department. Eric was appointed Honorary Cardiologist on the condition that he gave up his post as full-time Honorary Physician. He held the position until his retirement in 1958. During this period he, along with Kempson Maddox, John Halliday, Clive Fitts and other cardiologically orientated physicians helped to found what is now The Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand. He was its first Secretary/Treasurer and subsequently became its Chairman.

Later with many of the same colleagues he campaigned for the development of the National Heart Foundation. His encouragement also resulted in the development by the Both family of an effective available ECG machine which was developed and made in Adelaide and used extensively and successfully throughout Australia in the early years of electrocardiology.

From the early days of the Cardiac Clinic of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and even before that in the administration of the ECG department, Eric was assisted by John McPhie who came to follow him as Honorary Cardiologist to the hospital in 1958.

On his retirement, Eric worked full time in his private practice on North Terrace, which had started in 1935.  Over time he was joined by John McPhie and John Waddy, finally retiring in 1971.

Eric Gartrell died 10 January 1977

Written by John L Waddy (Cardiology in Australia and New Zealand, 1990)