For 37-years Doctor Francis Antonio cared, nurtured and helped his patients get back to health.
However, the Bomaderry based general practitioner now knows another group of important people need him more.
Dr Antonio recently retired because he wants to spend more time with his family.
Decisions like this are never easy but circumstances played a role.
“It was very difficult to leave but made easier by some of the reasons that cropped up in the last three weeks,” he said
“I went away to the United Kingdom for a two week holiday and met relatives I had not seen for 40-years.
“I found that such a rewarding experience and when I came back I went to my grandson’s party right after my return. The next day, Monday, I was due to start back at work. I thought I enjoyed my family time so much and if I start work now it could be really hard to leave.”
The foundation of the next stage of Dr Antonio’s life was laid.
“I still enjoy general practice but I thought family ties are more important and I asked myself ‘do I really need to work now’? The answer was no and so I never went back after my holiday,” he said.
“I think it’s time and I do not want my grandchildren to grow up like my children and myself not knowing their grandparents.”
Dr Antonio never knew his grandparents and his children never knew their overseas-based grandparents, while his wife Alison’s parents lived in Albury and never saw their grandchildren much.
“It's time for me to stop and spend time with my grandchildren,” he said.
He never got to say goodbye to his patients, which made leaving easier.
“If I had to say goodbye I probably would never be able to leave,” he said.
“I go for a stroll every morning, have seen some of my patients and they congratulate me on my retirement and so they are not upset.”
His children Sam, Thomas, Jacob and Emily are no doubt happy their dad will get to spend more time with them as well.
The one on one personal contact is still there and the patients are the same and we just talk, laugh together and tell storiesDoctor Francis Antonio
After 37-years of serving the community he deserves to leave in any manner he found fit.
He won't’ be tempted to go back and do the occasional shift.
“Once I am out I am out and it's better to have a clean break because the work is so enjoyable, and it would be hard to get out,” he said.
He graduated in 1978 from the University of NSW and Bomaderry was his first and only rooms.
Dr Antonio came to Bomaderry because he wanted to work in a regional centre and not somewhere like Sydney.
The chance to get into the practice had basically come up at the right time for Dr Antonio and his wife Alison.
“We came down as doctor and receptionist,” he said.
Bomaderry also gave him the chance to be a visiting medical officer and get access to the Nowra Hospital, which meant he could see patients in ward rounds and be able to get patients admitted to hospital.
He grew up in Hong Kong and at first, he thought becoming a doctor might be out of his reach.
“My hopes (about becoming a doctor) were not high when I came to Australia to study science,” he said.
“At that time (the 1970s) the first year of science was basically like the first year of medicine and I did so well they said to me ‘why don’t you move over’ and I said ‘okay’.”
His son Thomas is now also a doctor.
Compared to when he started in the 1970s, Dr Antonio said there seems to be more red-tape with being a GP.
However, many things remain the same.
I think it’s time and I do not want my grandchildren to grow up like my children and myself not knowing their grandparentsDoctor Francis Antonio
“The one on one personal contact is still there and the patients are the same and we just talk, laugh together and tell stories,” he said.
He said being a doctor gave him great satisfaction.
Dr Antonio built up a great reputation and many of his patients had been going to the surgery for decades.
The retiring doctor has always been community minded was a member of Bomaderry Lions and taught badminton at the Shoalhaven PCYC.
He has many things planned for retirement.
“I have a bucket list and I got 30 percent done already while I was working but I still have a lot to go,” he said.
Taking up medicine as a profession is something he would recommend.
“It comes with great rewards because patients will always make you happy,” he said.
He added the lifestyle for a GP was a flexible one.
He leaves with no regrets and many great memories.
Delivering bad news to patients is something doctors don’t like to do and Dr Antonio agreed it was the worst thing he had to do.
Thanks to advancements in treatments he said things like cancer was now not the death sentence it used to be.
He would like to thank his wife Alison and all the great staff he worked with over the years.
Dr Antonio said getting the right staff was a key a successful practice.
Helping mould and teach medical students at the Shoalhaven Campus of the University of Wollongong is something he also enjoyed.
He taught at the campus since 2006 and this role is one he will continue.