Murtagh, a legend of general practice
ALMOST 60% of GPs surveyed nationally for MO have nominated Professor John Murtagh as their number one hero of Australian medicine out of a list of medical luminaries.
The author of John Murtagh’s General Practice gets recognition wherever he goes, particularly from students who study the source of his legend – what Professor Murtagh refers to simply as ‘the book’.
It was Professor Murtagh who fielded the most requests for signatures and pictures at the Australian Medical Students’ Association conference last week, despite the presence of big drawcards like former prime minister Kevin Rudd and AFL triple premiership-winning coach Mick Malthouse.
The ‘Prof’s’ book, a 1535 page guide to primary care, struck a chord when it was first published in 1994 and has reverberated throughout the profession ever since.
Also high on the list of inspirational medicos in the Cegedim survey of 150 GPs were Professor Fred Hollows (55%), Dr Victor Chang (43%), Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop (28%) and Dr Fiona Wood (22%).
“I feel very honoured that people have that sort of response to my work,” Professor Murtagh told MO.
“I like people and I like students, and although it is sometimes a little embarrassing when people make a fuss, it also gives you a buzz to see your work has meant something to people.
“When it came to writing General Practice, I tried to write simply and to address common problems like dandruff, and hangovers, and bad breath – things you don’t get in the usual textbooks.”
Professor Murtagh said when he graduated from Monash University in 1966 he simply “wanted to be a country GP”.
“I did surgery training but decided to go into country practice in Neerim South, in Victoria, so I could become a complete country doctor. That was certainly the best part of my career and where I learned so much about medicine.”
After a decade as a rural GP, Professor Murtagh returned to Monash to teach medicine and eventually gain his professorship.
As for his own heroes, Professor Murtagh lists bionic ear inventor Professor Graeme Clark, pioneering medical missionary Dr Albert Schweitzer, Australian obstetrician Dr Catherine Hamlin, and Flinders medical dean, communicable disease researcher and former RACGP president Professor Michael Kidd.
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