We were saddened to hear that Jonette McDonnell (nee Jarvis), aged 77, passed away on Thursday, 3 February 2022, following a short illness. She will be remembered by many HIMs with whom she worked over the years, and particularly by members of the ACT HIMAA Branch.
Jonette and I met in January, 1962 when we started the Medical Record Librarian course at Royal Prince Alfred hospital, in Camperdown. We were one of a class of six privileged to be taught by Betty James who challenged us all to become involved in developing the still young medical record profession. My friendship with Jonette dates back to those days when, for two concentrated years, we spent blocks of time under the tutelage of such pioneering medical record librarians as Betty James, Rosemary Bull, Joyce Wilson and Judy Young.
Another of our classmates, Barbara Anderson (nee Reilly), has reminded me that in May 1963 we attended, as students, the Second Australian Medical Record Conference and Exhibition held at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. Jonette, Barbara and I, together with others from our class, had the privilege, not only meeting other medical record pioneers from around the country, but also meeting Edna Huffman from the USA and other international medical record professionals to gain an international perspective of our chosen profession.
Jonette grew up in Sydney and married lawyer and journalist John McDonnell in 1960. They have a daughter, Siobhan, son-in-law Lawrence and grandsons, Flynn and Will.
Jonette was a dedicated and enthusiastic medical record professional and, like many others, made the transition over the years to health information management, completing the Bachelor of Applied Science (HIM) with the first group of graduates at Cumberland College in Sydney. Her first job after her graduation in 1964 was in data retrieval in the Special Research Unit at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick. While still in Sydney, she was also a member of the organising committee for the 6th International Medical Records Congress, which was held in Sydney in 1972. Jonette was the youngest member of the committee and was a great asset. With her bubbling personality, she was a wonderful host to our international and interstate guests. In the attached photograph Jonette is fifth from the left with Betty James, Rosemary Bull, Frances Gillespie, Joyce Wilson, Jonette, myself, and Judy Young.
Jonette and John travelled a lot over the years and finally moved to Canberra in the1970s. There Jonette worked as a Medical Record Administrator at the Royal Canberra Hospital, and later for the ACT Government Community Services, and the ACT Department of Health and the Australian Government Department of Health and Aging, and the Department of Human Services. During this time, she also worked on the development of International Performance Indicators.
In January 2003, Jonette and John were out of town when the fire storm hit Canberra. They were collecting Siobhan from Sydney airport after a holiday. By the time they arrived back in Canberra, their home had been destroyed by the fire. Jonette said at the time that looking at the scorched earth was “surreal”. They had lost everything including pieces collected from around the world during their travels. Over time they rebuilt their home and their lives in Canberra.
Those of us who have known Jonette for a long time will miss her friendship, her colourful and stimulating company. Our thoughts are with John, Siobhan and all Jonette’s family at this time.
Phyllis Watson with contributions from Barbara Anderson and Katrina Chisholm.