A tribute to Dr Jim Rankin
The St Vincent’s family received some sad news last week at the passing of Dr James (Jim) Rankin, one of Australia’s foremost leaders in addiction medicine and a legendary figure in the history of our organisation.
St Vincent’s is known for its ground-breaking services and expertise in addiction medicine and we owe that it no small part to the efforts and example of Jim Rankin.
Jim began at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney in the 1950s. He met his wife Pat there, who was training as a nurse.
Dr Rankin was a true pioneer.
In the 1960s, Jim was called upon by St Vincent’s Melbourne and the Sisters of Charity to try to improve the hospital’s work with people struggling with alcohol use.
In response, he established Australia’s first ever medically-based, combined clinical and academic program for the treatment and study of alcohol use disorder in 1964. A revolutionary event at the time.
In the early 1980s, as Director of the Drug and Alcohol Division within the NSW Health Commission, Jim was instrumental in helping establish a network of drug and alcohol units across the state’s hospitals, including at St Vincent’s Sydney, which exist to this day.
And with the emerging heroin problem, Jim established Australia’s first purpose built methadone unit at St Vincent’s Sydney in 1984 – a service which eventually developed into the multi-faceted, specialised service providing treatment and care for people experiencing opioid dependence that bears his name, Rankin Court.
Dr Rankin’s foresight, curiousity and humanity beat a path for others to follow. When St Vincent’s established Australia’s first needle exchange in 1986; or assisted in setting up Australia’s first medically supervised injecting centre in 2001; or became the first Australian hospital provider to publicly support decriminalisation, those actions were only possible because of the previous leadership of Jim Rankin.
St Vincent’s and Australian healthcare owe a great debt to Dr Rankin. Jim’s legacy will continue to inspire our efforts.
Drs Jim Rankin (left) and Barry Firkin in the early 1960s.