Page 3: Public influence
Barratt-Boyes, Brian Gerald
Doctor, cardiac surgeon
This biography, written by Jill Wrapson, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2011.
Green Lane conferences
Green Lane’s standing as an international cardiac centre of repute was enhanced in 1965 when Brian Barratt-Boyes organised a conference of overseas cardiac surgeons in Auckland. John Kirklin, his former mentor from the Mayo Clinic, was guest of honour. Amongst attendees was a then unknown young heart surgeon, Christiaan Barnard of Cape Town, South Africa, who was to perform the world’s first heart transplant in 1967.
Green Lane became a showcase for further conferences, including one in 1972 which resulted in the publication of Heart disease in infancy: diagnosis and surgical treatment. Barratt-Boyes was a superb teacher and attracted many visiting overseas surgeons and trainees, who were able to use their skills and knowledge to save lives in their own countries.
In demand as a guest speaker, Barratt-Boyes regularly travelled overseas. He turned down many well-paid international offers, but in conjunction with his work at Green Lane, he consolidated his position in Auckland by taking up private practice in Remuera at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital.
Public health lobbyist
Barratt-Boyes became an outspoken lobbyist for improvements in public hospitals. The ability to improve and prolong the lives of New Zealanders suffering from heart disease was hindered by a lack of staffing and funding. He famously claimed people were dying on the surgical waiting list and that there was an urgent need for speedier assessment and treatment of cases.
Barratt-Boyes wrote works based on the detailed data he had meticulously kept over the years. His publications ranged from academic journal articles to the seminal and monumental Cardiac surgery (1986), co-authored with former mentor John Kirklin. Although he retired in 1989, Barratt-Boyes continued to contribute substantially to the literature, particularly on valve replacements.
Described by one patient as ‘a gaunt, grave, but good-looking man’1, Barratt-Boyes was regarded by his peers as dedicated and single-minded. He inspired great loyalty from his staff, which he reciprocated.