James Rankin Obituary, Death – The St. Vincent’s family was informed of the demise of one of Australia’s most prominent leaders in addiction medicine and a famous character in the history of our organization last week. Dr. James (Jim) Rankin was also a legendary figure in the history of our organization.
We owe a significant portion of the credit for St. Vincent’s reputation for innovative services and competence in addiction medicine to Jim Rankin, who has both led by example and made significant contributions to the field. Jim’s medical career began in the 1950s at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. There, he met the woman who would become his wife, Pat, who was studying to become a nurse.
Dr. Rankin was a genuine trailblazer in his field. In the 1960s, St. Vincent’s Melbourne and the Sisters of Charity solicited Jim’s assistance in an effort to enhance the hospital’s treatment with patients who were experiencing issues related to their use of alcohol.
In response, he founded, in the year 1964, what is considered to be Australia’s first ever medically-based, combined clinical and academic program for the treatment of alcohol use disorder and the research of alcohol use disorder. An occurrence that was groundbreaking at the time. Jim had a significant role in the establishment of a network of drug and alcohol units across the hospitals of the state in the early 1980s when he was serving as Director of the Drug and Alcohol Division within the NSW Health Commission. One of these units is located at St. Vincent’s Sydney, and it is still operational 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. This service eventually developed into the multi-faceted, specialized service that provides treatment and care for people who are experiencing opioid dependence and bears his name: Rankin Court.
Dr. Rankin’s prescience, inquisitiveness, and humanism paved the way for others to follow in his footsteps. It was only because of Jim Rankin’s previous leadership that St. Vincent’s was able to establish Australia’s first needle exchange in 1986, assist in setting up Australia’s first medically supervised injecting center in 2001, and become the first hospital provider in Australia to publicly support decriminalization of drug use. These accomplishments would not have been possible without his guidance.