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Vale Professor Neil Carson AO

We are saddened by the passing of Emeritus Professor Neil Carson AO on 10 June 2020.  Blackburn Clinic was founded by Prof Carson in 1952 and he maintained his connection with the clinic until his passing.

It was on the current site at 195 Whitehorse Road that Professor Carson first established the Blackburn Clinic general practice, using the lounge room of his family home as the waiting room.

Professor Carson was a pioneer in the field of general practice – his work helped general practice become a distinct career choice, requiring training specific to the field.  When he became a GP there was no official training or recognition.  Prof Carson was instrumental in bringing respect to the field, as well as initiating an ethos of continual learning and teaching – an ethos that Blackburn Clinic retains today.  As a testament to his contribution to the field of general practice, Neil was appointed an Office of the Order of Australia(AO) in 1993.

Prof Carson attended both Box Hill High School and Carey Grammer.  He decided early on not to follow in the footsteps of many of his family who were builders, and instead graduated MBBS from the University of Melbourne in 1950.

Professor Carson was a Fellow of the RACGP and member of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.  In their tribute to Professor Carson, Monash University state “He came to Monash as the foundation Professor of Community Medicine (now General Practice) in 1975, and five years later was appointed head of the newly established Department of Community Medicine. A visionary and entrepreneur by nature, he realised early on in his career that GPs needed specialist training beyond what was offered in the standard medical degree, and was determined that their skills should be seen as on a par with those of other medical specialists.” 1.

Professor Carson used his skill of analysing people’s strengths to bring talented recruits into the department.  He employed the Emeritus Professor John Murtagh AO, who authored several internationally adopted textbooks, including ‘John Murtagh’s General Practice’ (translated into thirteen languages and viewed as a critical resource by GPs for many years.)

Professor Murtagh told newsGP, “He was amazing to work with; loyal, supportive and caring for his staff. I was very impressed with him…. He was a leader, he made things happen. But he did tend to appoint people who he knew got jobs done. He’d seek out hard workers, and he expected results there was no doubt about that…… He had a lot of drive, he had a lot of knowledge, he was gregarious and people were attracted to that.”2.  Neil was known to joke that he preferred workaholics to talkers because you knew you were going to get your monies worth.  These attributes no doubt helped break through some of the barriers and bias he encountered among other academics.

Professor Carson set up the model of training for general practice that used good GPs to train new registrars as GPs.  As a result, Blackburn Clinic was one of the first practices to be involved in teaching Registrars.   This is a legacy that we continue today. Many of our current doctors came to Blackburn Clinic as a registrar.  We learnt long ago to hold on to the best ones.    Embracing the ethos of continual learning, particularly from your peers, helps the GP’s at Blackburn Clinic maintain their reputation as some of the best in their field.

Professor Carson also left Blackburn Clinic with the legacy of  being a family practice that recognises the importance of family.  Neil and his wife Bonnie had four children and Neil viewed the people he worked with as extended family.  Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer and past RACGP President, Professor Michael Kidd AM, was part of Professor Carson’s training program at Monash University.  As Professor Kidd told newsGP, ‘One of the things he said to me was, “You should be interested in the people who you’re working with outside of what’s happening in the university department; you should know about what’s happening in their lives with their families and their clinical practices because we’re a Department of Family Medicine, the department should be like a family” – and it was.’ 2

We are deeply indebted to Professor Carson for his vision, energy and leadership.  He founded a practice that continues to have an immense impact upon the community of Blackburn.  We strive to continue his legacy as a medical practice that provides the highest standard in clinical care and compassion to our patients.

References:

  1. The Monash University. https://www.monash.edu/medicine/news/latest/2020-articles/vale-emeritus-professor-neil-edwin-carson-ao
  2.  PROFILE – by newsGP (RACGP).  https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/professional/vale-emeritus-professor-neil-carson
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