Each year OPSMC honours the contribution made by Dr Better to sports medicine by holding the Annual FC Better Lecture.
This is open to all sports medicine practitioners.
Dr Fred Better
Dr Fred Better (Right)
With the passing of Fred Better OAM, medicine and in particular the sports medicine community, has lost a great man who almost single handedly created a medical speciality in this country.
Fred Cyprian Better was born on 16 September 1920 in Cieszyn, Poland the son of Jacob and Resi. Fred's early days were spent at school where he was a fine student but it was in sport that he excelled tennis, swimming, water polo and hockey where he became junior champion. With the advent of War in 1939, Fred put his age back a year to enlist in the Polish army where he became an officer in the Medical Corps. At an early stage he was wounded, having seen the carnage of war, he committed his life to healing and enrolled in medical school. For the duration of the war Fred continued to see active service with a further wounding - a mortar exploded in his face - and pursued his medical studies.
By the end of the war he had graduated an MD from Moscow University (1944) as well as seeing distinguished service gaining the Polish Cross of Valour and the Silver Cross of Merit. He saw active service in the liberation of Berlin in 1945. Fred would continue both his involvement in the armed services after the war finally retiring with the rank of Colonel. During this period he took undertook further studies completing a second degree in physical and rehabilitation medicine in 1947.
In happier days after the war Fred would see a lifelong goal of his youth realised when in 1947 he would represent Poland in the winter Olympics Hockey team. A year later would see him in London as sports medical adviser to the Polish Olympic Team where he would again meet Irene whom he was to marry. During the early fifties Fred held a number of senior teaching and clinical roles including Senior Lecturer at the Warsaw Academy and Assistant Professor of the First Surgical Rehabilitation Clinic in Vienna.
In 1956 Fred and Irene became part of those group of people who would see the possibility of starting a new life in distant Australia where some of Fred's family including his brother Eric had already settled. They finally arrived in Melbourne in November 1957 settling initially in Elwood before moving to Brighton.
Initially Fred was unable to obtain registration as a doctor, but after a short period in a research position at St Vincent's Hospital, in 1959 he commenced work as a remedial gymnast at Hampton Rehabilitation Hospital where he stayed for eleven years.
In 1970 Fred obtained full medical registration and commenced general practice in Brighton which he continued for thirty years. Fred was an old style GP, always available to his patients, a caring dedicated practitioner. As well as his general practice Fred maintained an involvement at Hampton, and also worked at Southern Memorial, Brighton Community and Prince Henry's Hospitals. He later became Head of Rehabilitation at Florence Nightingale Hospital in Brighton.
But throughout this time Fred's true professional love was sports medicine. He had first been elected to the State Council of the Australian Sports Medicine Federation (ASMF) in 1962 and was a member of the organising committee for the FIMS World Congress held in Melbourne in 1974. He served as State President of ASMF from 1979 to 1981, then as Secretary until 1987. He represented ASMF on numerous government bodies and was instrumental in establishing a sports medicine course for general practitioners in conjunction with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. He was directly responsible for teaching a whole generation of sports medicine practitioners.
Fred had long had a dream to establish a sports medicine centre in Melbourne and this came to fruition in 1984 when the City Baths Sports Medicine Centre opened. In 1987 the Centre relocated and became the Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre which over a period of 15 years has established a world reputation for excellence in clinical care and research in sports medicine. Fred continued to be an active partner and part time practitioner at the Centre until last year. As well as his roles within the State branch of ASMF, Fred was a significant figure nationally having being awarded a Foundation Fellowship in 1984, serving as National Secretary in 1987-88, Vice-President 1988-89, President 1990-91 and Executive Member 1992-94. He was awarded Life Membership of the Federation in 1985.
Fred's contribution was recognised by the broader community in 1985 when his adopted country recognised his lifetime contribution in services to Sports Medicine with the award of the OAM. In 1991 he was among the first group to sit and pass the specialist level sports physicians exam despite not having sat an exam for 45 years and never having had to endure a multiple choice paper. This was typical of Fred, always challenging himself and looking at different ways of doing things.
Apart from his demanding medical work, Fred's life was happily spent with his family and enjoying tennis and the ballet. In his later years, with no contemplation of retirement, Fred continued his active general practice in Brighton, his commitments in sports medicine as well as taking up the study of acupuncture, commitments he continued to the last few weeks of his life.
Fred lived his life with consistent attributes - dedication, hard work, continual learning, a commitment to heal the sick and make the world a better place and above all to live life bravely and make the most of every opportunity. Widely regarded as the 'Father of Sports Medicine'. Fred will most be remembered for his caring compassionate nature and his total inability to speak ill of a fellow man.
Fred is survived by his wife Irene and daughter Ellen.