ALAN GEORGE CUMPSTON
MBBS(Hons), MAppSci (Ohio),
MSc(NSW), MRACP, MRACGP.
Born 09/11/1914 Died 07/08/2001, Brisbane, aged 86 years.
Alan was born in Melbourne, where he spent his primary school years before moving to Canberra in 1928 when his father JHL Cumpston was appointed Commonwealth Director-General of Health.
He continued his education at Telopea Park High School before moving to Sydney to study medicine. He graduated with honours in 1937 and began research at the Kanematsu Institute in Sydney for his primary examinations for admission as a specialist physician. He did not finish due to the outbreak of the World War II.
After enlisting in 1939, he was based at Concord Hospital, where his diagnostic acumen was recognised and led to his training as an army psychiatrist. Alan held the rank of major and served in New Guinea. At the cessation of hostilities he was deployed in Indonesia assisting the recovery and transport home of prisoners of war. Alan remained an army psychiatrist during and after the war, based at Kenmore in Goulburn following the cessation of hostilities until mid 1946. After his discharge from the army, Alan established a practice in Batlow, in southern NSW, for two and a half years before moving back to Canberra. In Canberra, he worked as a General Practitioner for the John James practice in Ainslie. In 1952 he established a practice in Turner, which he operated together with rooms in Civic until 1958 when he determined that a lighter workload would provide time for him to prepare for the surgical primary examinations.
In 1958 Alan started work at Mary Kathleen in far north Queensland as town/mine doctor. As an employee of ConZinc Rio Tinto of Australia (CRA), he was responsible for the occupational health of the workers at the Uranium mine as well as their families. In addition to his work for the mining company, he worked occasionally as a relieving physician for the Royal Flying Doctor (RFD) service. From this experience Alan developed a keen interest in Occupational Medicine. In early 1961 CRA transferred Alan to Broken Hill where he was employed full-time as the occupational health physician for the Zinc Corporation and New Broken Hill Mines, owned and operated by CRA.
With CRA financial support, from September 1962 to late 1963 Alan studied in Columbus Ohio for his Masters Degree in Occupational and Aerospace Medicine. After graduation he returned to Broken Hill where he worked until 1968. In 1966 CRA seconded Alan to establish medical facilities at their Hamersley iron ore mine in Western Australia. He spent approximately one year there before returning to Broken Hill.
After leaving Broken Hill, CRA transferred Alan to their Bougainville copper mine, where he was town doctor and occupational health physician. On returning to Australia in 1973, at the age of 59, Alan enrolled in a Masters degree course in applied science at the University of New South Wales. After completion of this course he was employed for a short time as NSW Deputy Director of Occupational Health before accepting a position in Western Australia as Director of Occupational Health. He occupied this position until his compulsory retirement in 1979.
Alan moved back to Canberra where he was employed by the Commonwealth Department of Health as their advisor on Occupational Health. His duties in this position included writing occupational health and safety guidelines for the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC), a body established by his father Dr. J.H.L. Cumpston. 25 years. Alan left the Health Department in 1983. Following his retirement at the age of 70, Alan taught himself the rudiments of computer programming with the intention of developing an automated system for recording and reporting occupational health incidents in companies. This work was successful and eventually he completed a software program named “Guardian”. The work was recognised by major companies and marketed by Standards Australia for several years. Retirement provided Alan an opportunity to write about his experiences as an occupational health physician. He also occupied his time advising industry bodies, appearing as an expert witness in a number of court actions and progressing his love of painting.
His interest in painting and occupational health matters continued until his death in August 2001.
Alan Cumpston was a multi-talented man whose knowledge and skills were underutilised by the industry he served so well and for so long. His skill as an artist was undoubted and those who have seen his work are in no doubt that he will continue to be recognised in that field.
His natural reserve and unwillingness to confront people were largely responsible for his lack of recognition in many of the areas to which he made such a great contribution. Alan was married to Muriel (deceased) for almost 50 years.
Written by Michael Cumpston his son and forwarded to the Journal of Occupational Medicine by Trevor Cumpston (son).
AUSTRALASIAN FACULTY OF OCCUPATIONAL MEDICINE Editor: C. Maron.
Alan's son Michael and his wife Pauline visited me in 2001 bringing a copy of the Cumpston family tree. Photographs can be seen under the Barton entry