Obituary | Prof Barry Nurcombe

By: Nick Kowalenko, Senior Clinical Lecturer,University of Sydney, Child Psychiatrist South Eastern Sydney & Deputy Chair, Emerging Minds

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Professor Barry Nurcombe, a highly respected and accomplished child and adolescent psychiatrist. Professor Nurcombe's impact on the field of child and adolescent mental health was profound and will continue to be felt for generations to come.  

Professor Nurcombe was born and educated in Australia, where he began his illustrious career. With a lifelong dedication to understanding and improving the mental health of children and adolescents, his contributions to the field were numerous and significant 

He served in various esteemed positions throughout his career, including as Professor of Child Psychiatry at the University of Queensland, Australia, and as Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University in the United States. He also made valuable contributions to international organizations, notably the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP) & was awarded the IACAPAP medal in 2010 in recognition of this. He further established his reputation as a global leader in his field not only through his academic contributions,  but also through his sound command of Japanese,  his life-long interest in eastern cultures and his appointments as a Visiting Professor in Germany, Malaysia & Japan.  

Prof Barry Nurcombe 
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Professor Nurcombe was a prolific author and an esteemed researcher, known for his scholarly rigor, intellectual curiosity, and unwavering commitment to evidence-based practices. His publications, encompassing a wide range of topics within child and adolescent psychiatry, have greatly shaped the discipline and continue to guide professionals in their work.  His research into clinical reasoning, his elucidation of the processes underpinning effective treatment planning in combination with his survey of reliable treatment outcome measures set a benchmark for our profession for evidence based practice. He was a pioneer in this field. He also forthrightly pursued his academic interests in emerging fields such as child and adolescent forensic psychiatry, cross-cultural child psychiatry, global mental health and early intervention early in life to name a few. 

Outside of his academic accomplishments, Professor Nurcombe will be remembered as a compassionate clinician, a supportive mentor, and a wise teacher. He had an innate ability to connect with people, be they his patients, students, or colleagues. He was deeply admired for his dedication to his work, his intellectual insights, his ethical values, his generosity of spirit, his curiosity and his innate sense of kindness; attributes that were the foundation for his profound influence on clinical and academic practice.  

In losing Professor Nurcombe, we have lost a true giant in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry, but his legacy will continue to live on in the countless lives he touched, the professionals he inspired, and the field he helped to shape. 

Our deepest condolences go out to Professor Nurcombe's family, friends, and colleagues during this difficult time. As we mourn his passing, we also celebrate his extraordinary life and contributions. He has left an indelible mark, and his spirit will continue to inspire those who carry on his work in improving child and adolescent mental health worldwide.