George Patton Obituary, Death – A renowned adolescent psychiatrist and psychiatric epidemiologist, Professor George Patton spent his professional life working to improve adolescent health in Australia and around the world. The world became aware of adolescence as a distinctive developmental stage thanks to George’s studies. His work identified the unmet needs of young people around the world and outlined the steps needed to enhance adolescent health.
The Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing helped to define George’s most recent career. The previous UN Secretary General provided a perspective on this seminal collection of work, referring to young people as the “world’s greatest untapped resource.” The Commission has been extremely effective in influencing public opinion regarding the importance of teenagers and their health as well as the kind of investments being made to improve their health and wellbeing.
George began his distinguished research career in Australia, where he oversaw long-term cohort studies that continue to explain how adolescent health needs, such as mental health (anxiety, depression, suicide, and self-harm, eating disorders), substance use, sexual health, and more recently, COVID-19, emerge from childhood through adolescence, from adolescence into adulthood, and into the next generation. George oversaw the groundbreaking, multifaceted Gatehouse project, which was named after the original street address of the Centre for Adolescent Health. This intervention has recently been replicated in a variety of settings, including London, UK, and Bihar, India.
It has also served as an inspiration for numerous health-education initiatives in Australia and around the world. His research interests also focused on underprivileged young Australians, such as those who were involved in juvenile justice systems, were homeless, and were of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. In 1978, George earned his degree from the University of Melbourne. He received his postgraduate training in the UK at the Royal Free Hospital in London, where he received instruction in psychiatry and epidemiology. Returning to Australia in 1991, he accepted a post in the Centre for Adolescent Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital, which had just opened, along with an academic appointment in the Department of Paediatrics and afterward at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
From 1997 until 2003, George served as the Center’s Director of Adolescent Health, after which he became the Director of Adolescent Health Research. He assisted in transforming adolescent health during this time from a developing clinical sub-specialty of pediatrics to a crucial field of public health programs in and of itself. George was piercingly inventive and meticulous in his approach to studying, and he was unwaveringly dedicated to the highest scientific standards. He wrote numerous papers that were published in the top academic journals in the world, and he was also a skilled public speaker. Despite this, he maintained a remarkable sense of humility and was consistently giving with his time, thoughts, and wisdom—qualities that undoubtedly contributed to his popularity across diverse worldwide leadership networks. George mentored and oversaw more than 40 Ph.D. and postgraduate researchers as part of his commitment to developing the next generation of research leaders.
The Centre for Adolescent Health has become “the” location to study adolescent health globally thanks to George’s 30 years of research leadership at the institution, and it continues to host a large number of international academics, clinicians, and students each year. The Centre’s “extended family” will definitely feel our loss, but his and his students’ rigorous and inventive research will continue to shape the discipline for years to come. Professor Susan Sawyer AM, who succeeded George as director of the Centre for Adolescent Health in 2004, was given access to George’s life and work. Susan, who encouraged George to engage in research that went much beyond its technical aspects, was recently cited by George as the person who had the greatest influence on how he conducted his job. Together, they actually accomplished amazing things. Our thoughts are with Susan, the entire family at the Centre for Adolescent Health, George’s children Susannah, Thomas, Imogen, Jonathan, and grandson Robert.