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‘Cracking good’ team supports life of service

A rural GP with a “cracking good” health team and a life-long fascination with the life of birds is among AMA members recognised in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday honours.

Dr David Hollands who, with his wife Margaret, has lived and worked in the east Victorian town of Orbost more than 50 years, was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his many decades of service to his community, as well as his enormous contribution to ornithology.

In an interview with his local newspaper, the East Gippsland News, Dr Hollands recalled how, when he and his wife first arrived in Orbost not long after migrating from Britain, local doctors were expected to do “almost everything”, from delivering babies and stitching up cuts to dealing with major trauma cases.

“There was nothing like the air ambulance or helicopter evacuations,” he told the East Gippsland News. “People expected that the local doctor would cope with almost everything.”

Dr Hollands was among 20 GPs, specialists, researchers and educators recognised for their significant contributions to the health of the community and their services to medicine in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

AMA President Professor Brian Owler said the diversity and breadth of the accomplishments cited in the awards were testament to the significant contribution to the community made by medical practitioners every day.

Among the recipients is South Australian GP Dr Anh-Tuan Ngo, who had been a doctor in the South Vietnamese army and came to Australia as a refugee with his family in 1984. Since arriving in Australia, Dr Ngo has worked tirelessly, not only to look after his patients, but to serve the local Vietnamese community and support other veterans of the Vietnam War.

Another to be made a Member of the Order of Australia was Victorian GP Dr Barry Christopher who, in addition to his work as a doctor, campaigned for decades to advance Indigenous rights.

In the late 1950s Dr Christopher became President of the Victorian Council for Aboriginal Rights, and was a founding member of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

Dr Hollands’ experience is indicative of how important is the role performed by many doctors in their community.

Working in an area that included 35 saw mills as well as major interstate roads, Dr Hollands and his wife – also a doctor – saw plenty of horrific accidents.

“Industrial health and safety was non-existent and alcoholism was absolutely rife – people would arrive at work on Monday still half pickled. So we had an enormous amount of trauma,” he said, adding that the number and severity of road accidents they attended were “just incredible”.

He recounted how 35 people were injured when a tourist bus overturned late at night, and he and another doctor worked for 48 hours straight at the Orbost Hospital, “non-stop setting fractures and sticking tubes in chests and sewing people up”.

Asked about his award, he said that although receiving it was “very nice”, much was due to a “cracking good team”, including his wife, two other doctors and devoted and capable nursing and surgery staff.

In addition to his medical work, Dr Hollands has also been recognised for his enormous contribution to the study of birds.

He told the East Gippsland News of his life-long fascination with ornithology, and his is the author of numerous books including Owls, Frogmouths and Nightjars of Australia, Owls – Journeys Around the World, and Kingfishers and Kookaburras.

“I’ve been a fanatical birder since about eight, so I’m getting an award for something I really love doing,” Dr Hollands said.

Professor Owler said Dr Hollands, Dr Ngo and Dr Christopher were examples of the major contribution made by many AMA members to aspects of life well beyond medicine, and were deserved recipients of Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Adrian Rollins