Meeting – October 4 2018

Auckland Medical History Society

The next meeting of the Auckland Medical History Society will include the Annual General Meeting, and will be held in the Ernest and Marion Davis Library at Auckland City Hospital on:

Thursday 4 October 2018

The evening will be as follows:

  • 6.00pm: Refreshments
  • 6.30pm: Buffet Dinner
  • 7.30pm: Annual General Meeting
  • 7.50pm: Guest Presentations


  1. ‘Uses of Breast Milk in Medieval Medicine’                                                                    Presented by:  Assoc. Professor Kim Phillips
  1. ‘SIMPLY THE BREAST: the history of breast reduction surgery’        Presented by:   Mr Michael Klaassen


  • Members: $32
  • Non-members and guests: $40
  • Students with ID: $18
  • Glass of wine: $5
  • Bottle of wine: $20
  • Table water and juice are complimentary.

Please pay for your dinner and wine vouchers in advance, then collect the vouchers with your name badge on the night of the dinner.


  • Send the names of attendees to with confirmation that you have made payment to the Auckland Medical History Society account: 02 0160 0237509 00 via the internet, or cheque (made out to the Auckland Medical History Society) and sent toE Holst, AMHS Treasurer, PO Box 482, Orewa 0946  for dinner +/- wine vouchers.
  • If no e-mail access call Diane on 0274 305 326 with the names of attendees, method of payment and your phone number.
  • Final booking time: Please provide your booking details by midday on Mon 1 October.  Cancellations with refund or credit of any payment made will be accepted by phone or email as above until noon on Weds 3 October.  Please pay in advance of the evening so that we can pay our caterers before the event.

*Payment is not required if you are attending the presentations only.

Presenter,  Kim Phillips

Kim M. Phillips is Associate Professor in History at the School of Humanities, University of Auckland. She is the author of several books on medieval women, gender and sexuality, and is currently working on a book on the meanings and perceptions of the female breast in medieval European culture and society.


Human milk was used widely in medieval medicine. Breast milk—normally called ‘woman’s milk’—was recommended in cures for conditions ranging from eye and ear infection to fever and insomnia, and could even play a role in curing ‘frenzy’. My paper will identify and explore the uses of woman’s milk in a wide range of medieval medical texts from learned treatises to vernacular handbooks, noting significant antecedents in ancient medical discourse. I intend first to show what conditions were deemed treatable by breast milk. I will also explore the theories of the body and of pharmacology that guided the thinking behind the employment of human milk for medical purposes. Finally, I will select a handful of relevant remedies from the hundreds surviving in medieval sources, to illustrate how medical theory on the uses of mother’s milk worked in practical medicine. Ultimately, I aim to show that while medieval medical theorists employed concepts of the body and aetiology that were very different from modern microbiological science, they were nonetheless guided by rational and consistent precepts in accordance with medieval natural philosophy.

Presenter,  Michael Klaassen

Michael F. Klaassen was born in Otahuhu in August 1956 on the Great South Road, south of the WWI monument, in a now abandoned maternity annex. He was educated at St Patricks Convent, Panmure and Sacred Heart College, Glen Innes before heading to Otago University in 1974. He considered a career in the wrought iron trade and rugby league but a forward-thinking Dutch immigrant father persuaded him to study medicine instead. He was in the class of 1980 with distinguished physicians like Dr Peter Browett and politician Dr Jackie Blue. After dabbling in a number of surgical and academic fields he was drawn to the craft of plastic surgery. Gaining the FRACS (Plast) in 1990 he worked in England, Scotland and Australia before accepting a consultant position in Hamilton at Waikato Hospital. Plastic surgery is a specialty poorly understood by the public and the medical profession but thanks to mentors like Dr Earle Brown and Dr Ron Trubuhovich he has rediscovered its history and exceptional possibilities. His current interests are in mentoring younger surgeons and perfecting his surgical craft.


When I commenced as a plastic surgeon at Waikato Hospital in 1993, the waiting list for breast reduction surgery was at least 10 years. By the time I resigned in 2004, to take up a post in Sydney at St. George Hospital, this was reduced to 6 months. Breast hypertrophy is a pathological condition often not taken seriously by public health funding or the DHBs. The suffering in physical, physiological and psychological terms is not insignificant. The goal for breast reduction surgery should be to relieve the symptoms and the stigmata for the patient and to preserve aesthetic breast form and function.

My presentation will trace the evolution of breast reduction surgery from the 17th century to the present. It will consider the contributions of the early male surgeons and the modern female breast surgeons who have refined and raised the standards of breast surgery. I will mention the techniques used in the early 1950s when plastic surgery formally arrived in Auckland with the appointment of a part-time stipendiary plastic surgeon at the new Middlemore Hospital in Otahuhu. As a student of breast reduction surgery, I have come to appreciate it’s history, importance and those who have pioneered the way.