Dr Carl Clifford Jungfer

19 October 1903 - 25 March 1979

Carl Clifford Jungfer was one of those rare doctors able to pursue his calling actively for a period in excess of half a century. Such survival demands very special qualities, and I would like to examine them briefly.

Apart from a choice of parents of pioneer German stock, Cliff's destiny was built on numerous other foundation decisions. The first of them was that he chose the right wife. I have heard marriage described as "a tie which hope makes· beautiful, which happiness preserves, and which misfortune strengthens". This must have been just such a marriage despite the competition Mrs. Jungfer and the family would face from Cliff's devotion to his work.

Thoughts of his work - general practice - highlight the other appropriate series of ·decisions he made. The right profession for a man of his feeling, caring nature. The right discipline within that profession. General practice gave full opportunity for him to use his particular talents, to work close to people.

The right location for his life's work - the community of Lobethal, where one imagines he would have had background knowledge of every person in the area. In 1976, Cliff set down the central aim of his further work: "The prevention of disease and avoidable disability, with primary emphasis on personal action by the individual."  After listing the steps through which he might reach his aim, he added the final statement: "To remain in Lobethal for the rest of my life and to demonstrate in a rural community how these aims can be met."

We must not forget that he was writing this at 73 years of age, by which time most of us will have died, or certainly have retired. One could believe that the writer who said:

"The more the marble wastes
The more the statue grows"

had Cliff in mind, for his sagacity increased with his years.

I am here this morning as President of the RACGP, privileged and honoured to proffer tribute from my College to Clifford Jungfer's memory. We would claim him as one of our greatest sons (though fathers might be more appropriate). His association with the College has been a long and fruitful one. He served as President in 1966-68, and as Censor-in-Chief 1968-71, filling both offices with distinction. His many other services resulted in his receiving the Rose Hunt Award in 1976, perhaps our most prestigious accolade for service to the College.

William Blake once wrote: "Great things are done when men and mountains meet, These are not done by jostling in the street".

Cliff did great things when he took on metaphorical mountains, but he was no less capable of achievement when jostling in the street. This latter would have been exemplified in the spirited debates of College Council when facing formidable opponents such as the late Monty Kent­ Hughes. I should not be surprised if, at this moment, they are once more locked in debate, or setting up a study of the medical problems of their environment. In offering this last quote I suspect Cliff was telling us all something, and it might have sounded like this if paraphrased: I cannot go on for ever, but when my time comes do not sorrow nor eulogize too long - rather, be glad that we were privileged to share so much.

What a wonderful raconteur he was, and what a vast fund of anecdotes he had to relate, spiced as they were with snippets from his classical scholarship. I shared but a small portion of time with him, but I remember it most fondly for "Large was his bounty and his soul sincere".

The RACGP honours the memory of Clifford Jungfer, a great general practitioner, a devoted family doctor. We sorrow with his family, and his community, but our sorrow is mollified as we give thanks for his long life and good works.

Extracted from a eulogy presented by W. D. Jackson, President, RACGP, at the memorial service held April 3, 1979

J. R. H. Watson writes:

Carl Clifford Jungfer, fourth President of the RACGP, died in Melbourne on March 25, 1979, after a short illness. Others will write of his numerous achievements as a medical friend to many families in the Adelaide hills, of his great influence on medical standards and medical education, of his influence on education generally, or of his pioneer work in student health. I write of a friendship and of achievement by his continuing influence to the College which he served so well, even to his last few days spent assessing its strengths and weaknesses.

I first met Cliff in 1965, and we reached fast agreement, for one could not but admire the strength of purpose or the vision put together in a soft sell of rumbunctious raconteurship. "Influence, not power, my dear Watson, is what we need!" - "I'm looking for some key people who have been in local government, for the College." These were purposes behind stories of hiding a bell sent from Germany for a Lobethal Church when it arrived in September 1939, or of the train which waited for him to finish talking to a remote Tasmanian doctor in the early sixties.

Cliff knew what general practice was like, and could measure it descriptively, by his survey of Australian general practice of the late fifties and early sixties. In this he was influenced by the work of Osler Peterson whom he had met in America. It is unfortunate that the survey remains incomplete, but its first part gave some indication as to the state of affairs to those interested in general practice: and, above all, it showed Cliff what he should try to assess when he built the College Examination into an effective test. Years after Cliff made his survey, I was told by GPs he had visited that it was he who had made them interested in what they were doing, and he was eminently suited to be the torchbearer for excellence in general practice.

It must be noted that Cliff has been the most highly qualified academically of the ten Presidents, although this was never obtrusive on his part. He was farseeing and personally unselfish, obstinate in argument unless the weakness of his case could be shown, and disappointed always with the second best. He had latterly been made more conscious of the need to get better people interested in medical education, and was concerned at the lack of MDs in the College teaching hierachy as compared with the Universities: "Why should the devils (sic) have all the best tunes?''

His own careful preparation for leadership of the College was influenced by his teachers of the Adelaide medical school, _particularly Frank Hone, and by Professor Sir James Spence, the first incumbent of a Chair of Child Health in Britain. Spence was Syme Visiting Professor in the late forties, and spent a weekend with him at Lobethal, where he told Cliff, who wanted to realize his potential, that "You have to go out and get your luggage labels". This he did, by research leading to an Adelaide MD, and by passing the examination for Membership of The Royal Australian College of Physicians. Years later, when he was admitted to Fellowship, he remarked: "We are getting there."

From Spence may be seen more in Jungfer's life than just this influence: and in particular his work in developing concepts in relation to preventive attitudes added to the immediate therapeutic task in the consulting room. "Our people must learn general practice is more than episodic treatment of illness." "No one seems bothered to sit down and listen.". He would describe with some glee how bowlers would go to their doctors early with prostatism, because he routinely talked to men over fifty on this whilst they were undressing. It is not surprising he was first Chairman of the Preventive Medicine Committee of Council.

Cliff was twelve years on College Council, leaving in 1971. He served the College well in this period, having set a pattern of excellence for the College in future. He continued to be influential without power as he wished, his excellence alone being sufficient to ensure this. He had written in 1978 that he realized members' needs were not being met, and his recent trip to Melbourne was preceded by a correspondence with many to see how he could overcome this.

Skeat, his wife, and Cliff worked hard together to make the College what it is. Their home at Lobethal was open to many, and Cliff was conscious of the insights Skeat gave him to many people. She has had the admiration of many for her unobtrusive support.

We shall miss the friend, the elder statesman, the Puck, the devil's advocate: above all, we shall miss one who could not compromise on the second best, and made others strive for excellence.

Jon Baker writes:

One of the stories Cliff Jungfer was pleased to recount concerned his first meeting with M. 0. Kent-Hughes - of whom he was later to say, on the occasion of Monty's funeral: "He was my best friend."

It was at the time of the First General Practitioners' Convention, held in Melbourne, October, 1960. As might be expected, Monty Kent-Hughes was heavily involved in organizational matters: he was sought out by Cliff who introduced himself with the words: "Good-day -my name is Cliff Jungfer. Can I be of any help?"

This approach was already well established. As can be seen from Cliff's curriculum vitae, for some years he had been active - through his involvement with the BMA, AMA, Australian Postgraduate Federation in Medicine, for example - and it truly can be said that his life was spent in serving the best precepts of his profession.

But with the advent of the then Australian College of General Practitioners, Cliff launched a campaign of study and promotion of family care, of which he was a fierce - even ruthless - advocate.

As an example of his intense interest in primary health care, in the early sixties, Cliff was to undertake his now legendary survey into general practice in Australia1   which is still cited as reference material when general practice research is discussed.

Cliff gave no quarter in professing the need for establishing criteria - the means by which standards of care could be measured - and in the rapidly developing College he was able to put his beliefs to good effect during his term of Presidency, which was then followed by his serving for three years as Censor-in-Chief; the latter proving to be a most important era in the development of the RACGP Fellowship Examination.

In recent years, with his retirement from the 'official' area of RACGP, Cliff's contribution took a more global aspect. He relished his attendance at conferences and meetings, at home and abroad, and displayed to perfection the art of discussion, both as speaker and listener.

He was given to referring to himself as 'the old man on the park bench', ready to proffer advice to the enquirer. But woe betide he who took this simile to mean 'dozing in the sun'! Cliff's penetrating mind was anything but ready for retirement, and his 'park bench' was more of a consultant's seat, from which he stimulated and encouraged the 'younger generation'.

Cliff revelled in narrating events in which he had an interest, and was at his best when spurring on those who he regarded as his proteges.

It may well be no coincidence that the issue of Australian Family Physician in which he featured, and which he helped to coordinate, was published in the month of his death. Like his compatriot Monty, Cliff was a visionary, and had long held the dream of 'new horizons of health care'.·His dream never varied from seeing general practice firmly at the forefront of primary, comprehensive and continuing medical care, and in writing the article for the March 1979 issue of the journal entitled 'Prevention: An attitude of mind', Cliff was able to propound yet another of his beliefs: the importance of preventing disease.

The broad canvas of a horizon was nothing new to Cliff. His home at Lobethal, South Australia, was uniquely situated on a hill-top, commanding almost a 360 degree view of the countryside. It was typical of Cliff to choose such a site which spanned two cultures: one, which embraced the solid, established holdings of the winegrowers; the other direction pointing to the vista of Adelaide and beyond, with its horizon depicting both present accomplishments as well as the promise of things to come.

Old friend, while we mourn your passing to Elysium, we know you have once more joined forces with your "best friend", who will have - doubtless impatiently, as ever - awaited your arrival so you may both continue to investigate those new horizons of which you spoke so often.

Auf wiedersehen


1 Jungfer, Clifford (1965). General practice in Australia: A report on a survey. Ann. Gen. Pract.,X: Part 4


Carl Clifford Jungfer, CBE, SBSU, MD, BS, FRACP, FRACGP, FRCGP;

Medical Director National Heart Foundation of Australia (South Australia Division) 1962- 72;

AMA Fellow 1968;

British Medical Association President South Australia Branch 1958-59;

President Royal Australian College of General Practitioners 1966- 68;

Censor-in-Chief 1969-71;

Life Governer of Australian Postgraduate Federation in Medicine 1972-;

Rose-Hunt Medal RACGP 1976.

By W.D. Jackson, J.R.H. Watson and Jon Baker – originally published in Australian Family Physician, Vol 8, August 1979.