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Alcohol’s deadly impact: a personal story

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For AMA Vice President Dr Stephen Parnis, there is a deeply personal aspect to his campaign to rein in the nation’s drinking culture.

As an emergency physician at a major metropolitan hospital, he regularly sees patients seriously ill or injured as a result of alcohol, and he has witnessed first-hand the damage alcohol can inflict on families and across generations.

His maternal grandmother Jean died when she was just 46 years old after a long battle with alcoholism, a loss that has deeply affected his mother, Christina.

“Mum’s an amazing person, because she endured personal tragedy, and translated it into building a wonderful family of her own,” said Dr Parnis.

His family’s troubles with alcohol extend back even further, to the aftermath of World War One, when his great-grandfather returned from fighting in the conflict only to die aged 35 in 1923 when, while drunk, he fell under a train, subsequently dying of his injuries.

“I’m not just an emergency physician,” he said. “I’m also a father of three kids and I am very conscious of setting a good example for them.”

He said most Australians were concerned about the harm caused by excessive drinking, and the AMA National Alcohol Summit was a way to spread knowledge about the damage caused by alcohol and add to the impetus for action from governments, industry and the community.

Adrian Rollins