Frewin reflects on 40 years of education evolution
Aspiring medical students would be well advised to do their homework before embarking on this challenging road.
This is the message from Professor Derek Frewin AO, who retired in June as Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Dean of the Medical School. Professor Frewin has been succeeded by Professor Justin Beilby.
"Medicine is a demanding profession and calls for extreme dedication. It is therefore crucial that potential students make a value judgment to clearly understand what lies ahead," Professor Frewin said in an interview with the Adelaidean.
"It is also a profession that is very rewarding and satisfying, but students must pick it for the right reasons and this is why I urge individuals to do their due diligence before making a decision."
Born in Badulla, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and the son of a general practitioner, Professor Frewin was fortunate to obtain an ideal "entry" into the medical profession.
"My father (Thomas) was a role model in every sense of the word. I was able to sit in while he consulted and this introduction paid dividends," he said.
In a career that spanned 40 years at the University of Adelaide - he joined the University after emigrating in 1965 - Professor Frewin was able to enjoy the best of both worlds.
"In opting to be an academic and practise my craft, it enabled me to conduct research, undertake clinical trials, teach and also supervise MDs and PhDs. My work is also far from over and I will continue to manage the Hypertension Clinic at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, among numerous other interests," he said.
At Professor Frewin's farewell dinner, he was described as one of the finest gentlemen to grace the University. It was further added that anecdotally, there were few, if any, light-hearted stories about him.
However, Professor Frewin did not totally escape when, in describing his canny management and scrupulously inscrutable demeanour, Vice-Chancellor Professor James McWha described him as "a man who could peel an orange in his pocket without anybody noticing".
Then, there is also the side of the man who is truly proud, but humbled, by some of his many achievements.
"There are four that I treasure. The first was obtaining a Doctorate in Medicine in 1971 from the University of Adelaide. Among my foremost career objectives was to obtain a research doctorate," Professor Frewin said.
"The second was being awarded the Fulbright-Hays Senior Scholar Award in 1972/3 to work at the Columbian Presbyterian Medical Centre in New York.
"The Australian Medical Association (SA) Award for 2001 was extremely satisfying in that I had been recognised by my peers for outstanding achievement in medical education, research and clinical medicine.
"And in January 2003, I received an AO in the General Division of the Order of Australia for service to the advancement of medical education, to research within the field of hypertension and
to the community, particularly in relation to the care of the ageing and people affected by drug addition."
When Professor Frewin reflects on his career and debates whether he'd prefer to be starting again, he says today's medical practitioners have their own set of special experiences.
"Forty years ago, we needed to be good diagnosticians and if you were fortunate enough to have good teachers and mentors, you were assured of a solid grounding," he said.
"Modern day medicine is high-tech and this is what makes it so exciting. At least I can say I experienced the evolution."
Story by Howard Salkow