July 2, 2020

Q&A with Dr Ian Brand, AM

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Dr Ian Brand AM, joining the Preston and Northcote Community Hospital (PANCH), as Executive Director.

Dr. Brand was also Chairman of the Committee of Management of the Bundoora Extended Care Centre (BECC – known as Bundoora Centre) from 1987-90 and in 1992 the Ian Brand Nursing Home was opened, named in recognition of his work for the Centre.

Besides being a Fellow of the Australian Society of Certified Practising Accountants, Professor Brand has qualifications in Personnel Management, Education and Music. He is the only person to have received both the Sidney Sax Medal for excellence in health administration and the Gold Medal of the Australian College of Health Service Executives.

In 1983 he was honoured by the award of Membership of the Order of Australia, and in 2002 received the Centennial Medal. In April 1994, Professor Brand was awarded Honorary Citizenship of Jiangsu Province, China, the highest honour China can bestow on a foreigner, and the first time it has been given to an Australian. He has published more than 60 papers on hospital management and lectures and teaches widely in this area.

John Snowdon, Senior Lawyer at Northern, first worked with Dr Brand 40 years ago as an external legal adviser to PANCH. That relationship continued right through to the commissioning of the Northern Hospital. John remembers Dr Brand as an outstanding Chief Executive, and innovator, international statesman and a man who possessed amazing financial skills. Ian was both liked and respected by his staff, says John. “He treated them as people, not statistics.”

“Victoria owes a debt of gratitude to Ian Brand. He has devoted his working life to improving public health care for all of us,” says John.

Dr Brand answers our questions:

For those of us who were not around at that time, tell us what the role was that PANCH played in the northern community?

At the time, PANCH was the main hospital for the whole of the northern suburbs of Melbourne. We had the busiest Emergency Department, and the 50 bed Victorian Plastic Surgery Unit, which trained every plastic surgeon in Victoria. It became a model hospital for the Health Department, who used it to show overseas visitors interested in hospital management.

It is also ‘almost exactly 25 years since PANCH died a statutory death and the wonderful world of the Northern Hospital was created,’ says John Snowdon. What was it like to see the Northern ‘evolve’ from PANCH?

I was chair of the Committee that built the Northern. All our medical staff transferred, and it was great being able to work in a brand new specially designed hospital. We were told by the Health Department that it would take six months to fill up, but we opened on a Monday and had to go on ambulance bypass on the Friday as we were full! 

Tell us of your time at Bundoora Centre.

I was put on the first Committee of BECC as we couldn’t get an auditor unless there was a proper accountant to do the books, and I was the only accountant around. We built BECC on time and a little below budget. I was treasurer for the whole time it had a Board, except for the three years I was Chair of the Board, and I was pleased to agree to the name, Ian Brand Nursing Home.

You have many ‘firsts’ against your name – including being the first non-pharmacist to receive the Fred J Boyd Award, from the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia. How does a non-pharmacist get the highest honour the Society has to offer?

While I was Medical Supervisor at Geelong, my chief pharmacist asked me to set up a training program for hospital pharmacists, which I did. I was on their Board of Censors for 32 years, and Chair of the Board for 13 years. I taught and examined every Fellow of the Society, and they made me an Honorary Fellow and Member, and eventually awarded me the Boyd.

Between your roles as an administrator and an educator, which role do you prefer?

I enjoyed teaching as much as doing the administrative work, but most I enjoyed investigative work. I led the first accreditation teams for every state except Victoria, and did many hospital and system reviews. I did investigative work for every Minister for 20 years, which was endlessly interesting, and for 14 months was the administrator of Fairfield Hospital. Happiness is being a one man Board of Management!

Lastly, tell us about your portrait in our featured picture above?

The portrait was painted by Sir William Alexander Dargie, CBE, eight time Archibald Prize winner.

While working at the Austin Health, I noticed a painting of their Board Chair in the board room. It was by Sir William, so I made enquiries to find he wouldn’t paint you unless you met with him and had a chat. So I visited and he agreed to paint my portrait. I asked what to call him, and he said “Bill”, so I did. While sitting, he spoke about some famous people he had painted, and it was a fascinating experience. He asked how I would like to look, and I said “slightly mischievous”.  Hence the painting.