After three years in the Northern Territory, George moved to general practice in Sydney for four years, then to London to obtain a diploma in anaesthetics, before securing a clinical fellowship in Anaesthetics at the American University in Beirut. After 15 years, George returned to Melbourne and joined a medical practice servicing Frankston and Dandenong.
He worked mostly in the Dandenong practice, ultimately establishing the first private, accredited, stand-alone, day surgical facility in Australia. The Dandenong Surgicentre opened in 1982, pioneering a major change in surgical and anaesthesia care. Visitors from all over Australia came to see what George and his colleagues had created, and they gladly shared their information. A second stand-alone facility opened in South Australia in 1984, followed by the first public-sector day surgery unit in the grounds of the Campbelltown Hospital in NSW.
George continued to work and manage at the Surgicentre until he retired at the age of 71. He saw medicine as a wonderful profession for creating opportunity and better understanding the human condition. Reflecting on his years as a GP, George said it made him reflect more on the meaning of life and its destination. He saw as an exciting journey of discovery and was fascinated by other cultures, spiritual concepts and uncovering a purpose in life. This led him, with the support of the Rotary Club of Melbourne, to establish a variety of aid projects in Nepal, India, Vietnam and elsewhere in east Asia. He developed a philosophy of philanthropy centred on kindness, purpose and being effective, based on a lifetime of experience and questioning.
George’s life was characterised by service to the community and good works. In the 1990s he joined the executive of the International Forum for Child Welfare. He served as president of the Medical Benevolent Association of Victoria for 10 years and represented the Association on the Victorian council of the AMA. He was also a 50-year member of the Society of Anaesthetists. He was elected a fellow of the AMA while serving for 10 years as its representative on the board of the Lord Mayor’s Fund. In 1990, George’s work was recognised with an AM, and in 1992, the service-above-self award from Rotary International. He received the Weary Dunlop Asia Medal in 1996.
In his spare time, he indulged in his passion for engineering and mechanical things. He built 15 anaesthetic machines for his colleagues and, over the years, owned a variety of cars and motorcycles, rejuvenating several vintage models. His home workshop included a mechanic’s pit enabling him to service his vehicles. In his later years, George became a quiet student of meditation, especially in the yoga tradition of Kashmir Shaivism, an optimistic philosophy that sees everything as conscious energy, expressed in different ways – as unity in diversity.
Above all, George was a mentor, always happy to share his experiences and philosophy, advising, encouraging and cajoling many over his impactful lifetime. He used to say: “We are all impermanent and interdependent. Never stop learning. Never stop trying. Don’t knock around with fools, they are bad karma.”
George – AM, FAMA, DA (Lond), MBBS (Melb) – was not driven by ambition; he just had the flexibility and the confidence to say “yes” to opportunities and ideas. In his 93 years, he enriched many people’s lives and left the world a better place.
He is survived by his partner, Naomi, daughters, Victoria and Esther and step-children, Jonathan, David, Peter and Carin, his four grandchildren and six step-grandchildren.
Written by Professor Jonathan Cebon, Dr Rod Westhorpe, Patricia ni Ivor and Naomi Tippett.