Vale: Dr John Eric Moody AM

6/8/1923 – 19/4/2020

John Moody (BDSc 1947) was born in Canterbury, Victoria to a returned war veteran school teacher and a daughter of Scottish settlers from the Western District of Victoria. His father went on to become a headmaster and the founding principal of Balwyn High School. After a year in Wangaratta State School, he went to Hamilton State and High School before completing five years at University High School.

John studied dentistry at the University of Melbourne from 1942 to 1947 and graduated with first-class honours in orthodontia.

During his first year of dentistry John encountered Jesus Christ and this changed the course of his life. He joined the Melbourne University Evangelical Union and the Anglican League of Youth and after graduating, the Rev J.B. Montgomerie of the CMS arranged for him to become Australia’s first flying dentist in the Northern Territory. With Darwin as his base, he flew with the Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service (later RFDS) to provide dental care around the Top End.

During 1948 a combined Australian and American “Arnhem Land Scientific Expedition” was undertaken. John was invited to join this to investigate the oral conditions of the Indigenous population with the Nutrition Unit of the Expedition (recorded within the four-volume report published by Melbourne University Press, 1960). This study subsequently became a benchmark in observing the effect of changing dietary habits on Indigenous dentition.

At the end of 1949 John was invited to take up a position as Senior Lecturer in dentistry to medical students at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, South India. At the time the college required the subject for full recognition of its medical degree and also lacked a Dental Department. After arriving in early 1950, John proceeded to set up the dental department beginning with a treadle drill and folding chair. He trained staff and built up the department into a functioning unit. He had a name for being a stickler for detail and hygiene and would personally scrub and clean the clinic once a week. Of necessity, he treated large numbers of oral surgical cases and pioneered oral and facio-maxillary surgery in India. He developed methods of jaw reconstruction following treatment of oral cancer and the treatment of severe osteomyelitis. He had several articles published in the Australian Dental Journal1 and while he was there Sir Peter MacCallum visited the college and wrote a glowing reference about his work. The Dental Department is now a large modern institution, but it has been said that some of his dental work has lasted more than fifty years in the mouths of some of his older patients and some of his insights are still being applied successfully in the department today.

At the end of 1955 he returned to Australia for two years and married Valda Cashmore in 1956. After working for a period in Ballarat, he returned to India to work with students with the Union of Evangelical Students of India. He worked in Kotagiri, Calcutta and Shillong during which time two of his children were born. Valda became increasingly unwell during her third pregnancy, so the family returned to Australia at the end of 1961 and John settled into dental work in Australia.

In 1962 he worked assisting Dr Sam Yescovitch in Kew. In 1963 he bought the practice of Dr Alex Bremner in Hartwell and in 1968 set up practice in Highfield Road, Hartwell. He maintained his interest in oral surgery through the years and often undertook operations for Dr Brian Lee, orthodontist. At Brian’s suggestion he applied for and received official recognition as an Oral Surgeon in Victoria when this was being established as a new specialty.

John sold his practice to Dr Peter Delahey around 1983 but continued to work there until the end of 1999.

Val died of cancer in 1992 which was a great loss to him, although it did not diminish his faith, which he continued to explain to all who would listen. In 2001 he moved to Fiddler’s Green Retirement Village in Berwick where he remained until the last three weeks of his life.

In 2016 John had the Order of Australia AM conferred on him for significant services to clinical dentistry, particularly in remote Indigenous communities, and in the establishment of oral cancer treatment programs in India.

John was always a ‘doer’ and even in his last weeks of life was dreaming up useful devices to improve things around the house. He also maintained his dry sense of humour and sharp insight into life’s issues until he passed away. He is survived by four appreciative children and eighteen grandchildren.

By Dr Stephen Moody (MBBS 1982)

1 Australian Dental Journal  (1953, 57: 150-157) “Some Cases of Fractured Mandible”; (1955, 49: 399-400) “A case of Infected Dentigerous Cyst in Ramus”; and (1958, 3 (2): 85-96) “Osteomyelitis of the jaws and its treatment” Also of interest  (May 1949: 145 – 151) “Supplementary Data Supplied to the Nutrition Group of the Arnhem Land Scientific Expedition, 1948”; (Oct 1952: 262 – 263) “Dentistry at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, South India”.