Falling Upward – Frank Garlick’s unusual life (1929-2023)
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Compiled together by Dr Joseph Thomas and Dr Anthony Herbert from many sources (family and friends from Australia, India and Nepal).
Frank Garlick was an ordinary man who lived an extraordinary life, one that spanned across several countries including India, Nepal and Australia. A teacher, a mentor, and a friend whose life was marked by an unusual way of seeing usual things, Frank was a humble man with a strong faith who lived to serve others. He was called to his eternal home on the 13th of Jan 2023 in Brisbane and leaves behind his wife, Val Garlick, and children Mike, Bruce and John and their extended families.
Frank Hender Garlick was born on January 3rd 1929, in Newtown, New South Wales, the eldest of three children, to Salvation Army Officer parents George and Kathleen Garlick.
It was said that his aunt, who had been a missionary in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), used to tell him as she walked him in his pram, “One day you’ll grow up to be a Missionary doctor”.
As his parents were Salvation Army officers, the family were transferred regularly. From 1929 to 1943 they lived in 10 homes within 14 years, throughout New South Wales and Southeast Queensland. Frank was schooled in Armidale till 1946, when he re-joined the family in Brisbane and entered Medical School. He graduated in 1951 and began work at the Royal Brisbane Hospital in 1952. He continued as a resident, senior resident, and University registrar for the next five years, during which time he passed the Surgical Fellowship and Master of Surgery exams.
In 1957, Frank was appointed Surgical Supervisor at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. In 1959, he took leave for 12 months travelling via India to the UK where he sat for the Fellowship in Surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons. In India, he visited the five Salvation Army hospitals as well as the two Christian Medical Colleges in Ludhiana and Vellore, as he considered the possibility of work in a medical mission hospital.
After his return to Princess Alexandra Hospital, he continued in correspondence with both medical colleges, and an invitation was extended for him to join the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India as a specialist surgeon.
In 1961, Frank married Val, the sister of Brian Smith who was a close friend from medical school days. Then in 1962, having initially expected to travel with a three-month-old baby, they left for India with five-month-old twins, John, and Michael. Bruce was born two years later. The Friends of Vellore in QLD was started primarily to support Frank and Val as missionaries to India.
Unusual way of teaching and interacting with medical students
Over the next eight years in Vellore, Frank was the Professor of Surgery and involved in teaching and training others in surgery.
He established a small surgical lab for students to develop surgical skills and developed an intern’s manual for the care of surgical patients. He also became involved with students in the Evangelical Union and, on the side, began theological studies for a Bachelor of Divinity.
“Frank and Val opened their home to medical students and junior doctors and invited them to consider what faith in God did to medical practice. He challenged them to see their patients not as a case or a number but as individuals.”
Frank and Val opened their home to medical students and junior doctors and invited them to consider what faith in God did to medical practice. He challenged them to see their patients not as a case or a number but as individuals.
After eight years in Vellore, he was challenged by the difficulties young doctors face as they work in Mission Hospitals in rural India. Senior students in Vellore told him he was playing it safe by teaching surgery in the confines of a tertiary hospital and that the real challenge was to perform surgery in ill-equipped remote mission hospitals in India.
Unusual way of responding to challenges as an opportunity to exercise faith in action
Frank decided to resign as Professor of Surgery in 1971 and took on the role of an itinerant surgeon and staff worker under the auspices of the Union of Evangelical Students of India (UESI). He travelled extensively throughout India, spending half his time visiting medical students and half his time assisting doctors in small hospitals with surgical training. Val stayed on in Kotagiri while the children went to an international boarding school in Ootacamund.
During these travels and time with UESI, Frank was instrumental in setting up the Evangelical Medical Fellowship of India (EMFI), with Dr MC Mathew and several others. Ethical medical practice, integrity in life and fellowship were to be the pillars of the EMFI. Frank always felt that his spiritual growth in early years was helped by two groups – the Evangelical Union at the University of Queensland, and Salvation Army Bible class.
Unusual transitioning of a Professor of Surgery to become an Emergency Room Physician at the Royal Brisbane Hospital
Frank and Val returned to Brisbane in 1976, primarily for the ongoing education of the children, while Frank took up the position as Director of Casualty. In 1980, Frank visited several Accident and Emergency departments in the UK and brought his experience to the Royal Brisbane Hospital (RBH). Over twelve years, Frank worked through the changes of upgrading the Emergency Department, thus setting up the first emergency department at the RBH at a time when Emergency Medicine was a burgeoning medical speciality across Australia.
As he did in India, Frank provided support to doctors working in rural hospitals. Doctors working in rural hospitals (including missionaries) appreciated his calm presence, encouraging words and gentle spirit. Frank modelled to others how to be a caring and compassionate doctor, a wise and astute administrator and a wonderful mentor and friend.
Frank was active both with the Christian Medical Dental Fellowship at the state and the National level as well as with the Friends of Vellore, Queensland branch.
His interest in teaching and encouraging students was strong and continued with the same passion that he had while working in India. He was able to encourage medical students and colleagues in their medical and surgical careers, and in the parallel journey of spiritual growth.
“One enduring attribute of Frank was his ability to demonstrate a deep genuine personal interest and care to whoever he met.”
One enduring attribute of Frank was his ability to demonstrate a deep genuine personal interest and care to whoever he met. In 1989, after Frank retired from the Royal Brisbane Hospital, Frank was invited to be the Medical Director in Nepal Patan Hospital providing another opportunity for Frank and Val to demonstrate their faith in action.
Frank made a tremendous difference to the services at the Hospital and training of doctors and surgeons in Nepal. He received several awards, including the Gorkha Dakshin Bahu Class IV medal from the King of Nepal for his work in Patan Hospital, the Inaugural International Medal from the College of Surgeons for his work in Surgical training for doctors in rural India and Nepal, and an Alumnus Award from the Christian Medical College in Vellore.
Unusual way of perceiving family dynamics
With the background of their own personal challenges, Frank and Val became involved in Marriage Enrichment Seminars and conducted these over the last 3 decades both here in Australia and in many places in India.
They were married for 61 years. Their relationship was not without challenges, but they always worked on making their marriage better. Their example and encouragement has been a beacon to countless marriages. Many families are still together thanks to Frank and Val’s modelling and input into these sessions.
After Nepal, Frank and Val would make sure the family had a meal together on the weekend and spend time with the grandchildren. They were small but significant events and a way of drawing the family together in a time when busy lives drift apart all too easily
Unusual way of looking at faith and life
What truly defined Frank was his Christian commitment. He never wavered in his trust in Jesus, but he was always exploring and honest, seeking to grow and change. Frank had no time for a wishy-washy faith; integrity in faith and ethical practice was sacred to him. This enabled him to walk with others through their doubts and struggles. One example of his willingness to change was his decision to get baptised in his mid-forties, in a concrete water tank in India. He not only pursued further theological studies, obtaining his Bachelors and Masters, but he also read extensively and was open to discussing thorny issues in faith. One book of note was ‘Falling Upward’ by Richard Rohr from which Frank used to quote extensively in his discussions.
Within the CMDFA, especially in Queensland, he encouraged unity when there was diversity. He encouraged people to speak the truth, but to do it in a loving and listening way. He encouraged people to focus on the function of a committee or fellowship rather than its structure. He would say, “Physiology determines anatomy, not the other way around”. He enjoyed encouraging and catching up with Christian medicos whether at the local Coffee Club, a conference or event and would also come and visit them at their hospital or clinic.
Frank was a person who was committed to life-long learning from the evangelical theological base that he had been grounded in. This was both in medicine, teaching and thinking through the Christian life of discipleship. He was a refreshingly open person to the new Christian vision of mission in the world.
Unusual humour that came through in conversations
Frank could laugh at himself and his own accent. A standing joke is how he shocked patients by telling them in an Australian accent, “I will discharge you home to die!” meaning, “I will discharge you home today”! He spoke of the many “litany of troubles he had” and the many more challenges of ageing he had to experience.
Frank taught us not only how to live well, but also to die with grace. Towards the end of 2022 Frank and Val decided that ongoing medical treatment was enough and Frank was able to celebrate Christmas with family and his 94th birthday on the 3rd of Jan 2023.
Frank’s last diary entry was on the 31st January.
Sat 31st Dec 2022
“Probably the last entry
I am gratified
The family have rallied around… How blessed I am
(Funeral) Arrangements in place…
Thank you, Lord.”
Thirteen days later, with Val by his side, he passed on to be with Jesus.
Frank taught us:
‘To be fully alive’,
‘to be fully alive’ to our God and His calling,
‘to be fully alive’ to each other, and
‘to be fully alive’ to the opportunities around us.
A teacher, a mentor and a friend, now safe in the arms of Jesus.
Discover more about Frank Garlick’s legacy in our article Enriched By Mentoring by David Nikles.
Dr Joseph Thomas
Dr Joseph Thomas trained at the Christian Medical College, Vellore. He worked in several charitable mission hospitals in India before moving to Adelaide and training in Maternal Fetal Medicine. He has been working at the Mater Mothers Hospital as a Specialist in Obstetrics and Maternal Fetal Medicine since 2008. Joseph knew Frank from his training days in Vellore and was privileged to spend time with Frank and Val when his family moved to Brisbane in 2008.
Dr Anthony Herbert
Dr Anthony Herbert is a paediatrician specialising in paediatric palliative care at the Queensland Children’s Hospital. He was National Secretary of CMDFA from 2006 to 2012 and Chair of the Queensland Branch of CMDFA from 2016 to 2020. Anthony recalls a number of touchpoints of encouragement received from Frank from the time he was an Intern in 1997.