Cultured Fashion
James Marape’s quest to finally decolonise Papua New Guinea

The amazing story of PNG’s first professor of surgery

A Surgical LifeKEITH JACKSON with Rob Parer, Robert Brown and other sources

Now in Remission: A Surgical Life, by Ken Clezy, Wakefield Press, 472 pages, December 2012. ISBN-13: 978-1459643420. Paperback $36.99; Kindle Edition $8.43. Available from Amazon USA

LONDON - Ken Clezy AM OBE is a surgeon whose vocation has taken him many places, not all of them safe.

When three colleagues were shot dead at a Yemen mission hospital he escaped only because he had gone home for breakfast.

In Port Moresby, where he was the first professor of surgery at the University of Papua New Guinea, doctors and nurses still say, “Mr Clezy did it this way”.

He performed brain and spinal tumour surgery in PNG for many years and was a pioneer of non-operative management of the ruptured spleen in adults.

But his particular expertise was in the reconstructive surgery of deformities caused by leprosy.

In Now in Remission, Ken Clezy, now 90, shares the joys and sorrows of his family and professional life in the Third World. It is a story rich in character and place, and tells of a remarkable life dedicated to people in need

He was from farming family, “but Dad knew I'd never be a farmer by the time I was knee-high”, and studied medicine at the University of Adelaide, marrying his late wife Gwen in 1953, the year he graduated.

Dr Clezy studied surgery in England and Australia, becoming a surgical specialist with the PNG health department in 1960-88, pursuing a special interest in the reconstructive surgery of leprosy after training with Dr Paul Brand in India in 1964.

Rob Parer writes that Dr Clezy:

“…. would come to Aitape when the present Raihu Hospital was a leprosarium and do his magic surgery on the patients.

“He was just so kind and caring and fitted in with the Raihu leprosarium staff. Anne Hoy, the physiotherapist, would do the follow-up magic.

“What a team with saintly Brother Stan OFM working among the ones in pain 22 hours a day. The medication used at that time had terrible side effects.

“The saintly Br Stan ran the original leprosarium in 1954; he had 400 patients in the bush material Hansenide colony established four kilometres along a jungle walking track beside the Raihu River.

“It was well out of the way and no villages were near there in those days as it was thought leprosy was very contagious, which it wasn't.”

Ken and Gwen Clezy
Ken and Gwen Clezy

Upon leaving PNG, in January 1989, with his wife Gwen, Dr Clezy moved to Burnie, Tasmania, as a consultant surgeon.

"We had 10 very good years in Burnie, and retired here at the end of 1998," he says. But that wasn't the end of his career.

Dr Clezy spent his holidays as a voluntary worker at the Jibla Baptist Hospital hospital in Yemen in the Middle East.

"It was obvious that there was far too much work for one surgeon - so we had a holiday each year and went back," he said.

It was during one of those holidays in 2002 that a gunman attacked the hospital.

"He shot the lady doctor, the manager and the lady who managed the store," Dr Clezt said.

“The hospital pharmacist was also wounded. I operated on him, and he survived.”

Despite that tragic event, the Clezys returned to Yemen three more times before he retired in 2005.

Dr Clezy was 75 when he put down the scalpel but in 2006, he was still at Tasmania’s North West Regional Hospital working as a part-time chaplain.

Finally retired in Adelaide, he has written ‘Now in Remission’ and two novels, ‘Man of the Moment’ and ‘Like New Wine’.


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Dennis Malone

Very much enjoyed this post on Dr Ken Clezy and his wife.

My daughter (born in TPNG at Immanuel Lutheran Hospital, Mambisanda, Enga Province in 1969) had an orthopedic surgery done on her foot in 1984.

It went bad and medical people at the SIL Center, Ukarumpa, EHP recommended we take her to Goroka to see Dr Clezy. We did and he was very helpful.

I am currently writing a memoir of my wife's and my times in PNG (1966-1991) along with other work around Asia, the Pacific and Africa. I would like to contact Dr Clezy to give him personal thanks. Can you provide me with a contact address (preferably electronic)?

I don't have Ken's email, Dennis, but you could contact him via Linked In ( or the University of Adelaide, with which I believe he still has an association - KJ

Robert Forster

I have always been grateful to Mr Clezy who while at Madang operated on my shattered left shin in July 1969.
The bones just would not knit and just before they finally set he spent an age sighting down my left leg, rather like someone testing to see if a gun barrel was true, before making a final, irrevocable, adjustment,and sealing it in plaster for the last time.
His aim was good because against the odds my leg remains sound despite being heavily abused on rugby fields, more mad motorbike riding, and long days hard walking too.
I am pleased to be able to record a fifty year thank you and also to say I have always admired his work with the appreciative lepers who attended the hospital at the same time.

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