There are so many memories from my time at the Austin that continue to shape my clinical practice and teaching (twenty years on!) – but one name is at the heart of a lot of them. Mary Rose Stewart. As a student I was in awe of her for her for her stylish presence and sheer brilliance. But it was awe without fear – this was a woman who wanted me to become good physician and who showed by example that females could truly be the best in the sometimes cut-throat world of academic medicine.
As her registrar I came to appreciate Mary Rose on many more levels. She taught me the true meaning of holistic patient care with her unique combination of extraordinary diagnostician, compassionate care-giver, wonderful teacher, seeker of evidence, and humanitarian. Who else could I have gone to for non-judgemental help after diagnosing unilateral renal artery stenosis by commencing an ACE inhibitor in a clinic patient? Who else would have offered relationship advice and gardening tips to ground me during a frazzled phone call mid-way through a frantic twenty eight hour shift as Medical Registrar? Or bought me a coffee on her way into the morning round, without having to ask a junior team member how they liked their morning cuppa?
I finished my eight years at the Austin with an excellent grounding in clinical medicine thanks to many fine teachers and mentors. But I left with a great deal more than that. 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.
I don’t expect I will ever be the great physician Mary Rose Stewart is, but I know her teaching and example has contributed much to whatever skill I have. I mentally thank her for this gift on an almost daily basis.
Assoc Prof Catherine (Kate) Cherry
MBBS, PhD, FRACP, Grad Dip (Clin Epi)
Infectious Diseases Physician, Clinical Epidemiologist and Principal Burnet Fellow
Class of 1992