NOWRA’S first paediatrician doctor Toby Greenacre will next week mark 30 years of treating children.
In 1984 Mr Greenacre became the first paediatrician based in Nowra and the first full-time paediatrician at Shoalhaven Hospital.
His being based at Nowra came through a colleague and visiting paediatrician, Dr John Brown.
Dr Brown, who was a great friend and encouragement to Dr Greenacre was providing an outreach service making monthly visits to Nowra as the specialist paediatrician, flying down from Sydney.
Dr Greenacre trained at Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in 1979 and became a Fellow of the College in 1983 and after accompanying Dr Brown on some of his visits decided he wanted to settle in the area.
At the time the nearest full-time paediatric service was in Wollongong.
A third-generation doctor, his grandfather and father both country GPs, he knew the importance of doctors in rural areas.
He moved to Nowra with his wife Helen and they knew they were in for some long hours.
“I was on call seven-days a week, 24-hours a day for the first seven years of this single-man practice,” he said.
“We saw that as part of the adventure.
“It was just what you did. Doctors might question it now and I suppose I even would as well.
“It wasn’t until my colleague, Dr Mark de Souza, arrived in town in 1990 that we managed to share some of that on-call workload.
“Now we have great support from junior staff at the hospital and we do get locums to cover weekends.”
He paid credit to his wife Helen, saying he wouldn’t have achieved what he had without her support.
“Helen has been incredible.
“As well as supporting my endeavours she ran our house and raised our five children,” he said.
“Evelyn and Andrew Pettigrew were also a great help when we first moved here.”
So, too, were Ian and Jenny Holt, with whom Dr Greenacre would later build a surgery.
Over three decades Dr Greenacre said the biggest change he had seen had been vaccination and the almost complete eradication of some childhood diseases.
“When I first arrived in Nowra it was not uncommon to see some serious diseases still prevalent like the three major forms of bacterial meningitis, measles and whooping cough,” he said.
“Children now need admission to hospital less frequently as many of the diseases have disappeared or can be treated on an outpatient basis.”
On average he sees 250 newborn babies a year and for some that contact is ongoing until young adulthood.
“I’m now seeing some of those early patients’ grandchildren,” he said.
“I’d hate to think how many patients I have actually seen during my time in Nowra.”
He still recalls his first local case.
“It was a woman named Kerry Cole from Culburra Beach, and she had a caesarean section at Shoalhaven Hospital,” he said.
“My wife took a photo of me heading off to it.”
He said he was driven by the enjoyment of helping children.
“There is a great satisfaction in helping children,” he said.
“Our children, their good health and education are our country’s greatest asset.
“I know it sounds somewhat corny but I believe being a paediatrician is a calling,” Dr Greenacre said.