The Origin of the Austin and Repatriation Hospitals
The original Austin Hospital was opened in 1882, as “The Hospital for Incurables” as a result of an extraordinary anonymous donation. That philanthropist was later identified as Elizabeth Austin from Winchelsea in Western Victoria, and in spite of five name changes, our hospital still bears the Austin family name and Coat of Arms, the basis for our Unit tie and emblem.
The original “incurables” were mostly Tuberculosis (TB) sufferers but by the 1920’s the second wave of ‘incurables’, were cancer sufferers. Indeed by 1935, the Austin Hospital was the largest cancer hospital in Australia and to this day still supports more cancer research than any other medical centre.
The “Repat” as we colloquially know Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, began in 1941 as the 115th Army Field Hospital, AIF, and the following year also took on “a lodger”, the first No 6 RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) Hospital, which subsequently moved to Point Cook along side the No1 Flight Training School.
The 'Early Years' of the Austin Urology Unit
Lieutenant Colonel James Sturrock Peters, AIF, VX355 was amongst the Army medicos who returned to Australia in 1945. He had an extraordinary war record throughout the Middle East, a “Rat of Tobruk” and did his formal Urology training at St James Hospital, London in 1947.
The formal commencement of our Austin Urology Unit began when James Peters was officially appointed as a Urologist to the Repatriation General Hospital Heidelberg in 1957.
In 1969, a Plastics and Urology Surgical Registrar, David Ellis, was inspired by James Peters to pursue Urology. David Ellis obtained his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in London and was invited back to Melbourne to become the first Australian to be formally trained in Urology In Victoria between 1969 and 1971.
The Evolution of Urology Services
Harold “Hal” Frederick Rowe Story, trained at Melbourne University during World War II and completed his post-graduate training at the then “Mecca” of Urology, St Peter’s Hospital, London. Harold Story was an Austin Urology consultant for 33 years at the Austin from 1956 to 1989.
It was only with his formal appointment, and the obvious need to service the clinics of the spinal cord unit and casualty department, that urology service at the Austin seriously began in 1967. Hal was renowned for his devotion to both the Austin and Repatriation hospitals and pioneered the first Urology Outpatient Clinic.
At the time of Warren Johnson’s appointment as Head of Unit in 1975 the Repat had been renovated to accommodate a large 45-bed ward next to the new theatre complex making it the largest Urology Unit in Australia. He also established sub-specialisation and introduced the ‘Special Consultative Clinic’ for the management of prostate cancer.
This clinic is still going strong today and assesses patients with genito-urinary malignancies as well as prostate cancers. This combined clinic continues with between ten to fifteen Consultants from Radiation Oncology, the Ludwig Cancer Institute, Medical Oncology and Austin Health Urologists.
Shortly afterwards the Repat renovation in 1975, Stephen Clarke commenced Urology training at the Repat and established formal urodynamics at the Austin Spinal Cord Unit, gaining international recognition in this exceptionally complex and difficult field, the service now being conducted with equal dedication and expertise by John Rogerson.
In 1976 Rodney Syme was appointed to the Repat, the first dual Urology appointment between the Austin and Repatriation hospitals. He continued as Urologist there until 1996. Throughout the 1980’s all new appointments were given dual status at the Austin and Repat, and included Steve Clarke, David Angus, and John Rogerson, who are all practising consultants in the unit today.
Very soon after the formal amalgamation of the Austin and Repat units into a single entity on the 1st of January 1995, Rodney Syme became the first Head of the Austin Repatriation Medical Centre Urology Unit, a post he occupied from 1996 to 2001.
Our Unit Today
Austin Urology currently has thirteen Consultant Urologists, two overseas fellows from USA and Ireland and two SET training registrars.
When Rodney Syme retired in 2001, Damien Bolton inherited a Unit ripe to enter the twenty-first Century.
Damien Bolton has helped to forge Austin Urology into a formidable academic unit and the most sought after urology training centre with 40% of all Victorian Urology Trainees having an appointment with us.
In 2008 our Urology Unit published more scientific papers than the entire University Department of Surgery at the Austin. There are currently seven students doing higher research degrees enrolled under Damien Bolton’s supervision.
The Austin Urology unit strives to deliver an exceptional standard of service for the people of Melbourne and continues to be at the forefront of developments in urology training and academic research in Australia.
Special thanks to A/Prof David Webb for providing the historical information of Austin Urology
CLICK HERE to download the history of our unit tie.