Roy F.R. Scragg, OBE, DUniv (hc), MD

Roy Scragg

Title: Epidemiologist and Medical Administrator (Retired)
Location: Glenelg South, South Australia, Australia

Roy F.R. Scragg, OBE, DUniv (hc), MD, a retired Epidemiologist and Medical Administrator, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Doctors for dedication, achievements, and leadership in epidemiology.

In 1950, Dr. Scragg became a pioneering epidemiologist and from 1957 to 1982 was also a successful medical administrator. In 1947, after obtaining a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery from Adelaide University, Dr. Scragg was the first young Australian doctor to join the Papua New Guinea Department of Public Health after World War II.  In 1950, he earned a Diploma in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene from the Sydney School of Public Health then undertook his groundbreaking demographic and gynecologic study of the rapidly declining population of New Ireland District. He discovered that long-established community gonorrhea had resulted in 54% of New Ireland menopausal women being childless. This primary cause of salpingeal tube occlusion was eradicated by penicillin both in New Ireland and all over the globe. In 1955, the Adelaide University awarded him a Doctor of Medicine for this study and his thesis titled “Depopulation in New Ireland: A Study of Demography and Fertility” and in the same year, he was the founding editor of the peer-reviewed Papua New Guinea Medical Journal: current issue Volume 64.

From 1957 until 1970, Dr. Scragg was the director of the aforementioned Department.  He played a central role in the establishment of the curative, preventive, research and educational divisions of the medical services in the island nation. His continuing involvement with medical research created an epidemiological culture within which his colleagues investigated and defined the treatment, control and prevention of cretinism, neonatal tetanus, enteritis necroticans and other hazardous diseases. The health system he fostered has doubled the average life expectancy of Papua New Guinea people from 32 years in 1950 to 64 years today.

During this period, he also served as a member of Papua New Guinea’s Legislative Council and House Assembly. He was a member of the committee set up to establish the University of Papua New Guinea in 1966 and helped ensure the establishment of its medical faculty in 1970. Throughout his tenure in Papua New Guinea, Dr. Scragg was a member of the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and the Research Council of the Pacific Community; formerly known as the South Pacific Commission.

Dr. Scragg was subsequently appointed as a professor of social and preventive medicine at the University of Papua New Guinea, where he participated in the education of the young men and women of the country who in due course replaced all the imported health workers. After leaving Papua New Guinea in 1974 through to his retirement in 1982, he was the founding coordinator of the South Australian Postgraduate Medical Education Association.

In 1982, Dr. Scragg was awarded the degree of Master of Public Health from the Sydney School of Public Health for his thesis on the effects of health care interventions on the people of a pre-industrial village in Bougainville. He regularly documented his scientific findings in more than 25 scholarly articles which were published in peer-reviewed medical publications including the Journal of Biosocial Science.

In 2015, Dr. Scragg was a guest of honor and invited speaker at a Cambridge University conference on “Sex, Disease and Fertility in History.” His oration was published in 2019, as one of the essays on the relationship between sexually transmitted diseases and infertility as a chapter in “The Hidden Affliction.”

In recognition of his invaluable contributions to the public health system of Papua New Guinea, Dr. Scragg was named an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1971. For significant contributions to medicine, to epidemiology and to medical associations, he was appointed a member of the Order of Australia in 2021. He has additionally been designated as an honorary life member of the Australian Medical Association, the Australasian Epidemiological Association, the Public Health Association of Australia and the South Australian Medical Heritage Society. In 2015, Adelaide University honored Dr. Scragg’s remarkable career by awarding him with an Honorary Doctorate. In 2017 in recognition of his role as a founder, he received the Distinguished Fellow Award of the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators.

Dr. Scragg attributes a great deal of his success to his parents, both of whom encouraged him and his siblings to obtain graduate degrees and his serendipitous choice of a career in epidemiologically virgin Papua New Guinea. He advises aspiring doctors to continuously harness their scientific curiosity and explore new theories for treatment methods. In his experience, even ideas that present themselves out of thin air deserve thorough consideration and research.

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