Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 21-January-2011, Vol 124 No 1328
Eva Ruth Seelye
27 May 1929 – 12 November 2010
Eva Ruth Hersch escaped Nazi-occupied Vienna in late 1938. Her father from a distinguished medical family had been taken underground by patients and Eva and her mother made their perilous escape aided by her uncle’s contacts.
The family were reunited in Dubrovnik and with the assistance of the Myer family were granted a permit to enter New Zealand.
Her father Hans retrained at Otago Medical School and German-speaking Eve entered a convent school in Dunedin. Her schooling was very much that of teach yourself, having been given a copy of Dickens and a German/English dictionary, and sat at the back of the class. Following his graduation her father set up General Practice in Herne Bay.
Appropriate schooling again was difficult for intelligent Eva and she spent much of her time reading in the Auckland Public Library. She matriculated at the age of 15 years after attending correspondence school and at the age of 16 was offered a place at Otago Medical School. Her wise father decided she was far too young and she enrolled at Auckland University graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1948 before proceeding to Dunedin to graduate MB ChB in 1953. Whilst at Auckland University she met Ralph Seelye a lecturer in the Chemistry Department and they married in 1954.
Her father died in 1954 and following her House Surgeon years she worked in her father’s General Practice. This she did not find to her liking and left to become an Anaesthetic Registrar in the Auckland Hospitals. With her husband, Ralph, she travelled to Oxford University where he completed his Doctorate and she gained her FFARCS in 1961. Following their return to Auckland Eve became a Specialist Anaesthetist with the Auckland Hospital Board, based at Green Lane Hospital. She was granted her FFARACS in 1968 and became FANZCA in 1992.
Eve was to spend the rest of her career at Green Lane Hospital, spending most of her time working with the Cardiothoracic Surgical Unit (CTSU). She and her close friend, the late Dr Marie Simpson, provided most of the anaesthesia for that unit and they were heavily involved in the Intensive Care room, Catheter Lab and with Cardiac Perfusion. These were the early days of cardiac surgery in New Zealand and Eve was engaged in a considerable body of research coauthoring 26 papers from 1962. These covered anaesthesia, hypothermia, cardiopulmonary bypass and physiology being published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia (8), the New Zealand Medical Journal (4), Clinical Science and Molecular Medicine (5) and others in Cardiothoracic journals.
Eve was also a coauthor of and contributor to three books. Despite her aversion to administration, Eve was a very competent Chair of the Department of Anaesthesia at Green Lane Hospital from 1978 until her retirement in 1985.
Eve was an excellent teacher, lecturing to the CTSU nurses, involved in anaesthetic technician training and was a practical instructor for all, in theatre, Intensive Care and on the wards. She was an examiner for the Final FFARACS examinations, a role she enjoyed and filled with distinction.
Eve took early retirement to spend more time with her beloved Ralph and they spent “15 blissful years” exploring New Zealand, tramping and enjoying the company of their many friends before his death in 2002.
Eve was a delightful companion with a quick wit and a great sense of humour although she did not tolerate fools gladly. She gave of her best and expected others to do the same. Sadly, after Ralph’s death her own health deteriorated and despite constant pain she still managed to keep up with her reading, maintained a keen interest in all things medical and her enquiring mind was with her to the end.
Eve and Ralph were grateful for their own education and were keen to provide educational and learning opportunities for others. Having no children of their own, they established the Ralph and Eve Seelye Trust, which provides funding for undergraduate and postgraduate students, Visiting Lecturer Fellowships at the University of Auckland and a Doctorate Scholarship in Anaesthesia.
Recipients come from varied specialities and Eve enjoyed reading through the resumés and deciding who would receive funding. A wider public benefitted from visits from Early Childhood Educators, Architects, Marine Biologists, Lawyers and others as well as Medical Educators.
Eve always had a sense of gratitude towards New Zealand for taking her and her family in but it is we who have (and will continue to benefit from) the contribution she made to anaesthesia and the legacy she and Ralph have left.
Basil Hutchinson (FANZCA, retired, Auckland) and Kaye Ottaway (FANZCA, Auckland) wrote this obituary.
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