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Rustomjee, Rusie (1912–2011)

by Malcolm Brown

Rusie Rustomjee, who died at 98, never wanted to give up anything much, not life and certainly not the practice of medicine, which he did for 75 years, first in Ceylon, as it was then known, then in the Blue Mountains and Penrith, retiring only at the age of 89. Highly regarded for his expertise and compassion for his patients, he went so long because of his interest in his profession. His widow, Jer, says he was, ''a man who shunned publicity and one who respected people, regardless of their position, wealth or standing in society''. He was described elsewhere as ''the doyen of Sri Lankan doctors in Australia''.

Rusie Rustomjee was born in Colombo on November 9, 1912, the son of businessman Cowasjee Rustomjee and Piroja (nee Mistry). He was the grandson of a prominent Ceylonese philanthropist, Jamshed Ji Rustomjee. One of six children, Rustomjee shone academically at school and won a scholarship to study medicine at the Royal College, Colombo, where he specialised in ear, nose and throat surgery.

When the Japanese launched their invasion in Asia in 1941, Rustomjee joined the British Army and served in the medical corps in India and Ceylon, working in hospitals. Following the war, he underwent more training in London and became the first Asian to join the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in the speciality of ear, nose and throat surgery. He returned to Ceylon, married a cousin, Jer Rustomjee, and returned to his surgical practice.

His children were born in fairly quick succession: a daughter, Zarine, in 1949, another daughter, Tehmi, in 1950 and a son, Jamshed, in 1951. Rustomjee was the chief ear, nose and throat specialist at Colombo General Hospital. He was elected president of the Sri Lankan College of Surgeons and was offered the position as the first district governor of Lions Clubs International in Sri Lanka, which he declined because of his professional commitments.

In 1975, worried by the financial situation in Sri Lanka, Rustomjee and his family migrated to Australia, where they settled in Lapstone in the lower Blue Mountains. Rustomjee continued his practice, operating at Springwood Hospital and at the Nepean Hospital, Penrith. He loved the area and was very keen on personal exercise, though he regretted the limited opportunities he had to pursue one of the great pastimes of his youth: ocean swimming.

Rustomjee, who died in Mosman on October 6, is survived by his widow and his three children: Zarine Mistry, who became a consultant physician and went to live in Virginia in the US; Tehmi Meher-Homji, who became a chartered secretary; and Jamshed, who served with the transport board in NSW for more than 32 years. Rustomjee is also survived by four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Original publication

Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Rustomjee, Rusie (1912–2011)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/rustomjee-rusie-16732/text28628, accessed 27 June 2022.

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