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 Austin Health Medical Alumni Association 29 May 2020
 
Obituaries for Bill Gilbert and Mary Rose Stewart

The Staff and Alumni from Austin Health acknowledge with great sadness the recent deaths of two of our esteemed senior medical colleagues.
William (Bill ) Gregory Gilbert was a Senior Plastic Surgeon who died on 12 April 2020
Mary Rose Stewart was a Senior General Physician who died on 16 May 2020.

 
The Obituary for Bill Gilbert was prepared by Julian Liew with contributions from Derek Neoh.
It is with great sadness that we note the passing of one of our colleagues.  Mr William (Bill) Gregory Gilbert died on the 12 April 2020, at 79 years of age.  He had a long affiliation with Austin Health, and had served with great distinction as one of the hospital’s Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons.
 
Bill graduated from Melbourne University in 1965, and was a resident at Royal Melbourne Hospital and Prince Henry’s Hospital and trained in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Victorian Plastic Surgery Unit (PANCH).  Bill initially chose medicine to use those skills to travel and work overseas, and after his plastic surgery training, he spent three years in the United Kingdom working in Bradford and Norwich.
 
Bill joined Austin Health in 1976 and was admired by his patients, and all members of staff at the hospital because of his compassion, honesty and technical brilliance.   He was especially dedicated to providing a surgical service to the Spinal Injuries Unit at The Austin, and he quickly left his mark on such an emerging and evolving surgical field.  He was often described as an extraordinary fellow with an extraordinary brain.
 
Surgeon and mentor to a generation of plastic surgeons at Austin Health.  Bill would frequently torture trainees with his encyclopaedic knowledge of musical and movie trivia, horse racing and cockney slang.  He selflessly trained his registrars, and was both unafraid to allow autonomy and unafraid to speak his mind.  Always fair and honest, his wisdom, knowledge and anecdotes will be missed.
 
Outwardly, Bill was a reluctant plastic surgeon, but privately, he could never see himself in any other profession.  A master of the cryptic crossword, an avid fly fisherman, horse racing aficionado and lover of musicals and trivia. Bill always marched to the beat of his own drum.  Patients, trainees and his colleagues will remember him for his wit, quirkiness, patience and brilliance, particularly in his care of the spinal injury patients at Austin Health.
The Obituary for Mary Rose Stewart was prepared by Greg Lockrey with contributions from Lucy Croyle, Anne Walmsley, Kate Cherry, Catherine Clancy.
Mary Rose Stewart  FRACP died on May 16th, aged 73 -- exhausted, after a long period of respiratory illness, which had prevented her working about 4 years earlier.
 
As a general physician, Mary was renowned for her diagnostic and management skill, her straight talking, and an underlying streak of mischief. A friend describes her as “a naughty girl” in school: she finished her work quickly, then enjoyed distracting others. She sped through the years at Genazzano College, then commenced medical studies in 1963, aged 16. After a couple of years working at Royal Melbourne, she moved to Austin Hospital -- in 1972 or 73.
 
Medical interns in 1973 found her very supportive, but demanding of high standards. Long ward rounds might be relieved when she subtly handed out chocolates hidden in the deep pockets of her white coat. Mary taught enthusiastically, mentoring younger colleagues before the word was widely used. Many commented on her sense of style. Young doctors described her as inspiring.
 
One consultant put it thus: ‘When I bring coffee to the Friday ward round for my team, I think of the woman who taught me that taking time for shared refreshment enhances patient care and team morale. When we identify questions on each round and agree to bring back the current evidence, I can see Mary Rose admitting freely that learning never stops and being happy to be taught by younger staff. I have never needed to question the value of understanding something of each patient’s life since watching Mary Rose provide care that considered more than lab results and examination findings.’
 
Mary was married a couple of years after graduation. Her physician’s career was initially part time, fitting in with the needs of a young family. Before starting a practice, she worked for the National Heart Foundation blood pressure study in the late 1970s. Private practice came a year or two later, alongside hospital consultant work at Austin. She was a firm believer in the role of General Physicians – a cause she championed by the quality of her work
 
Somehow, she managed her professional life, running a household – where her cooking was described as ‘sophisticated.’ Her maternity leave was not supported at times by other colleagues. With the family complete, four very energetic daughters were her major focus, yet she continued to read widely, as well as medically, and could happily discuss many subjects (including the Essendon Football Club). Mary was alleged to have held strong views about the use of performance enhancing supplements. Gardening was a continuing passion. Though she was not especially fond of cats, when a stray kitten was found, MR fed it patiently from an eye dropper in the kitchen.
 
Many were delighted by this bright, clever woman, whose comments were often not politically correct. Expletives dotted her conversations, followed sometimes by an apology. Mary made long connections with people: a nanny for 25 years, her secretary for 43, a cleaner for 15, a school friend for over 60 years. She formed close bonds with nurses (especially at Warringal Hospital), doctors, and ancillary hospital staff. When I asked her opinion of one proposed surgical referral, she replied: “He’s good. He operates well, and he thinks.”
 
Over and over, one heard how her patients adored her. So did her family. She was very generous with her time at work, and with friends and family. Even in the past few years, she was more interested in others than herself, eager to comment on their medical experiences, listen to their news. As her treasured ability to read disappeared, and she was largely confined to home, family and visitors opened windows into the world Mary could visit only in her thoughts. She hated being sedated by analgaesics: “ This b… narcotic is doing my head in!”
 
Many people will miss this extraordinary woman – family, friends, colleagues, patients. All have their little stories; all are richer for the times we spent with Mary-Rose Stewart.
These two outstanding clinicians have been known to many for their kindness, dedicated work and contributions to the Austin.  We will remember them.
 
Gwynne Thomas
Emeritus A/Professor Gwynne W Thomas
President
Austin Health Medical Alumni Association.






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