University of Otago Otago Medical School Alumnus Association

Obituary - Professor John M B (Sandy) Smith

Academic

Professor Sandy Smith MSc(NZ) PhD(Otago) had an illustrious career in clinical microbiology since graduating MSc in Microbiology at the University of Otago in 1961. He completed his PhD under the guidance of Molly Marples in 1964 by which time he had published two papers in Nature. His foundation studies on antibiotic resistance of  Staphyloccus from guinea pig skin, due to co-colonisation with antibiotic producing fungi, led to his lifetime interest in antimicrobials. After a 3-year position as foundation Lecturer in Mycology at Massey University, Sandy returned to the position of Senior Lecturer in Microbiology at Otago in 1967.  Sandy's recent research covered three areas of clinical microbiology which included the mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria, the pathogenesis and laboratory diagnosis of opportunistic mycoses and the potential use of vaccines in the control of ringworm infection. He retained an active interest and publication record in these areas for more than 50 years.

Professor Sandy Smith

Professor John M B (Sandy) Smith
(1937-2007)

Published the book "Opportunistic Mycoses of Man and Other Animals", C.A.B. International, England, 1989; Consultant in Microbiology at Dunedin Public Hospital; past chairman, Scientific Committee, Otago Medical Research Foundation; Vice President International Society for Human and Animal Mycology, 1988-91; Associate Editor, Journal of Medical and Veterinary Mycology; member executive Western Pacific Society for Infectious Diseases and Chemotherapy since 1989; member Pathology committee, Part I examining board, RACS since 1989; recipient Australian Society for Microbiology Mycology Award for career accomplishments in Medical Mycology, 1992; recipient Australasian Federation for Medical and Veterinary Mycology Award for meritorious contributions to medical and veterinary Mycology, 1994. He was awarded The Silver Science and Technology medal by the royal Society of New Zealand in 2005 for his contribution to Microbiology research.

Teacher

Sandy was an icon amongst teachers at the University and he brought a clarity to learning that was unique. In Sandy’s hands the Overhead transparency became an illuminating art for his role in the education of generations of doctors and scientists is legendary.  His contribution to Postgraduate microbiology teaching for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), made surgery safer, and brought him a great deal of satisfaction.

His leadership as Head of our Department from 1996-2004 saw the Department grow significantly to become one of the most research active Departments on Campus, with record numbers of MSc and PhD students. His leadership and advocacy ensured that Microbiology was well represented, yet he never cast a shadow on those who followed in his train.

Friend and Colleague

As a debunker of pomposity and all things PC, his colleagues remain forever in his debt. Never again will another Sandy cross the University stage to remind us of our insecurities, through his honest and provocative interjections. His pragmatic Southern man traditions allowed him to skirt the pathways of Political Correctness largely unaffected.  Above all else Sandy was a multifaceted gem: a shy extrovert, who encapsulated order and chaos within a cloak of conservativism and liberalism. 

We are grateful that Sandy provided the role model for a humanity that is good and decent. For never questioning why, but what needed to be done.  His memory will be held safe in our hearts while he rests safely in the Palm of God’s Hand. We thank God for the gift of a life that has made us richer through his being. While we grieve momentarily, for the loss of his physical presence, we will continue to weave his colourful threads into the tapestry of Microbiology & Immunology.

Sandy's life will continue to remind us that: "Its not the number of breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away!"

Sandy's Tribute

Firstly my sincere appreciation to Trish and the family for allowing us to share some thoughts of Sandy's pivotal role as a colleague and staff member of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology and his contribution to the University of Otago tradition.

Our Tribute to a Valued Colleague

Sandy, as we reflect on Your life and the reality that we will never share another yarn and a drink, we ask, Why did you leave so early?? No clear answer comes and no good reason is obvious!! Knowing that you were never one to leave the party early, we looked to Higher Authority to get the answer.

In our most recent communications on the Celestial Ethernet, we specifically prayed that you stay awhile longer to share one last Hurrah.  Either the prayers went unheard, or The Great Architect of The Universe, has more pressing plans for you. There must be an outbreak of campylobacteriosis or a MRSA adrift on the Celestial vapours, so you left with our blessing!!

Knowing the sterilizing powers of the high temperatures in the Nether regions we felt assured you were upwardly mobile and will have a Consulting role at the Top table.

Today we celebrate your Exceptional life, which though too short, is long in its outstanding achievements. Through shared experiences lets highlight a few of those special qualities which allowed you Sandy, to add lustre and meaning to the lives of the students and colleagues whom you have touched these past 50 years.

Your academic achievements are best encapsulated in the: Citation for the Silver Science and Techology Medal by the Royal Society awarded to you in 2005.

Professor Sandy Smith has made an outstanding contribution over 40 years to the area of Medical Mycology.  Since the publication of his 2 papers in Nature with Professor Molly Marples, in 1960 and 1964, he has published over 109 peer reviewed journal articles, 17 chapters in books, 11 reviews and 2 full books.  He has served on a number of prestigious committees and societies including the World Health Organisation committee, on common fungal diseases of humans and animals, the associate editorship of the journal Medical Mycology and he has been a regular member of the scientific organizing committee of the International Mycological Congress.  For the last 10 years he has been appointed as the expert microbiologist on the PHARMAC committee on anti-infectives and was Vice President of the International Society for Human and Animal Mycology for 4 years.  More recently he has been recognized for his expertise in the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.  He has taken an active role in the communication of this problem to the medical community, and to medical students through his teaching.

Professor Smith has played a major role in the teaching and administration of Microbiology.  He was Head of Department in Microbiology at Otago University from 1996 - 2004.  He has been a consultant mycologist to the Dunedin Public Hospital Microbiology Laboratory for 20 years. He has received two Australasian awards for achievements in teaching and research in medical mycology.  He was the first person in the world to be appointed to a designated tertiary academic position in Medical Mycology (Massey, 1964). He continues to receive outstanding student assessments for his teaching.

While citations are exemplars, your life and work meant so much more to us as colleagues, and I will hereafter address my specific comments to you Sandy.

Sandy the Researcher

To have two papers published in Nature before completing a PhD is exceptional and led you into a career as one of the worlds leading mycologists. Over your career you published across the complete gamit from Nature in the 1960’s to the ODT in the 2000s, where recently you shared your expertise on MRSA, campylobacter and bird flu. Your unwillingness to consume chicken in any restaurant worldwide, for the past 50 years, points to your rare vision in anticipating the emerging problems with Salmonella and Campylobacter in chicken meat. You have been a leader in Microbiological research in New Zealand for nearly 50 years and your abilities as a scientific author (editor) is an example to all your colleagues.

The Teacher

You are an Icon amongst teachers in the University and your contribution to the education of generations of doctors and scientists is legendary. You brought a clarity to learning that was unique and you made an art form of the overhead transparency. Its lucky you didn’t come to grips with Powerpoint or you could have become even more seriously competitive in student-teacher evaluations. Your contribution to Postgraduate microbiology teaching for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), made surgery safer, and brought you a great deal of satisfaction.

The Leader

Your leadership as Head of our Department from 1996-2004 saw the Department grow significantly to become one of the most research active Departments on Campus, with record numbers of MSc and PhD students, Your leadership and advocacy ensured that Microbiology was well represented, yet you never cast a shadow on those of us who followed in your train. The precision of your administration was matched only by the chaos of your filing systems, and the acuity of your retrieval powers, by which you could find a two page document in a pile 1 metre high, within seconds. Please send us a Sign so that we know what to file or bin, as we clear your office.

Trust us to treat your documents with the respect they rightly deserve because we appreciate their potential to become part of New Zealand’s Biology archives, but please give us a SIGN.

The Man

Killer Smith: While we didn’t see you in your prime as a footballer or cricketer, your uncompromising and competitive attitude in Staff-Student sporting contests, was compelling, and foreshadowed what has become the modus operandi of professional sportspeople. Generations of referees will breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that your sideline comments in Kettle Park will in future be from a greater distance, but your mates at the Dunedin Football Club will no doubt miss your intuitive inputs.

The Shy but Extrovert Southern Man

The memory of meeting you at Leeds Railway station in 1980 is forever etched in my consciousness. A warm embrace saw you disappear from view with the reminder that Real Southern men don’t cuddle other Jokers. We then (eventually) went North to Glasgow to find a coat for Trish and the search for those elusive Tartan pants: Too big, too small, too bright, too dull, it was just too hard.

Your search for a Fast Filly. Apoplexy down the main straight at Wingatui for $1EW. (Tom Sydey)

The TAB in the Sky: Remember mate that Ticklish goes in the McEwen stakes at Moonee Valley at 3.30pm on Saturday so put in a Word for me.

Rugby : A word of caution, now you are on the Other side, don’t embrace International spiritualism too early, begin lobbying immediately with the Higher powers to ensure we get a fair shake in the World Cup.

Our Friend and Colleague

As a debunker of pomposity and all things PC we remain forever in your debt. Never again will another Sandy cross the University stage to remind us of our insecurities, through honest and provocative interjections.  Accepting that we in the University are considered to be a repository for free thinking, be assured that we shall continue to express your concern and passion. 

Goodbye Sandy

Thank you for providing the role model for a humanity that is good and decent. For never questioning why, but what needed to be done.  Your memory will be held safe in our hearts while you rest safely in the Palm of God’s Hand. We thank God for the gift of your life that has made us richer through your being. We will grieve momentarily, for the loss of your physical presence, but will continue to weave your colourful threads into the spiritual tapestry of Microbiology & Immunology.

Put the Chariot on autopilot and travel peacefully, within the compass of the love of your family, friends and colleagues.

We extend to Trish and the Family our sincerest sympathy and Thank you for sharing Sandy so generously with us for a half Century.

Your life will continue to remind us that: Its not the number of breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away !’

GOODONYA MATE, IT’S A GAME OF TWO HALVES AND WE WILL LATER JOIN YOU FOR THE SECOND.

THE LAST HURRAH :  PLEASE  !  DONT ANTAGONISE THE REFEREE  !!!!

Your Friend Frank
on behalf of  M & I Colleagues,  Frank Griffin