September 8, 2021

Dr Stefan Herodotou: 40 years at Northern Health

Dr Stefan Herodotou is celebrating an incredible 40 years at Northern Health.

Stefan started working at PANCH on 1 May 1981.

“Forty years of my life. How fast all those years have gone!” he said.

“I feel it was only yesterday. I remember so vividly being interviewed for the job by Dr Peter Leslie, the then medical director, and my excitement a few days later when I was told that the job was mine. The job which would give me an infinite number of rewarding moments.”

“A job which would give me highs and lows. Would give me excitement and happiness and at times sadness and desperation. A job which would provide some of the building blocks in forming my personality and character. A job which would make me to be what I am today,” he said.

Dr Megan Robb, Director of Emergency, acknowledged Stefan’s dedication and commitment as an emergency physician.

“He is highly respected and valued by both his colleagues and patients, not only in ED, but across the health service. He is one of the most dedicated and hardworking physicians I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” Megan said.

“He truly is an inspiration to all around him as well as one of the nicest, most kind and considerate humans you could ever hope to meet,” Megan added.

Fellow colleague, Dr James Hayes, who has worked with Stefan for 37 years, said, “Dr Herodotou has been one of the pillars of our hospital for decades, going quietly above and beyond his duty, his deeds going mostly unknown to others.”

“Stefan’s, kindness and dedication to his patients is well known throughout our hospital, working always with good humour and without complaint,” James said.

Stefan says the ED is a very demanding environment; busy and unpredictable. There is never time to be bored in ED.

“The intensity of the emotions can be enormous and fluctuate so rapidly. Precisely that energy, emotion, teamwork, and the shared goal that we all have to save lives, are what drive my passion,” he explained.

“I have seen significant advances in my 40 years of practice. Now the work is much more structured, the training of the medical and nursing staff is much more advanced, as is the technology we use. Also, our knowledge of emergency medicine has grown exponentially. One would think that all these advances would make the work easier. However, this is not entirely accurate.”

“I find that people’s general expectations of us have increased dramatically, which increases the pressure among the staff. The average age of presentations to the ED has increased considerably. Now that people are living much longer, their medical issues have become a lot more complex. The investigation of all these complex medical issues is now much more sophisticated and much more expensive,” he added.

Stefan explains medicine has two main components – the science and the arts.

“Science is constantly changing, evolving, and advancing. The arts part of medicine is what has remained unchanged from the times of Hippocrates. The need to see the patient holistically as a human being and not mechanically as “a liver, or lungs or a stomach” has not changed. That is why computers, regardless of how much computing power they have, cannot become doctors. Cannot replace the doctors.”

“I love medicine. I love it so much. Very often I reflect on what we do. How privileged we are. There is no other profession which gives you the opportunity to come into such a close contact with others, to build a rapport where people can trust you with their wellbeing and, at times, with their life. But this privilege is not without a huge responsibility. We should never take advantage of this trust,” Stefan said.

Stefan emphasises this to his students and junior staff.

“I feel that it is the responsibility of every doctor, firstly to believe and adapt to this philosophy and practice medicine with that in mind, but also it is our responsibly to transplant this philosophy in the hearts of the students and to the younger generation of doctors.”

“I also believe that it is essential for doctors starting their careers in medicine, to learn early on to anticipate the highs and the lows of the job. The joys along with the disappointments and frustrations. We all make mistakes. But the mistakes should be an opportunity for learning and moving forward with even more strength,” Stefan added.

Stefan explains he started his career in medicine as an idealistic young man – “and I try to remain an idealist,” he said.

“I had a dream that in my lifetime the world would change. That medicine would help to eliminate serious diseases and that medicine would be the catalyst for a positive change across the world. That poverty and wars would be only a thing of the past.”

“Forty years later unfortunately, millions of people still die before even they walk. Millions of people still live in poverty and thousands of people continue to die every day because of war. Millions of people still have to move from country to country as refugees for faults not of their own. Still, I see immeasurable pain inflicted on young people because of the greed and the selfishness of countless number of other people and the huge imbalance in the distribution of wealth.”

“Reflecting on all this, I am wondering sometimes, how we can go to bed at night and sleep as if it was everything in order in this world?”

“I don’t want to finish this opportunity without saying how much I’m enjoying all the friendships I have developed with all these people I have worked with all these years. I can sincerely say that, during these 40 years, I have experienced only friendships and respect.”

“I’ve always thought of the people at PANCH and Northern as my extended family. Philosophically, I don’t believe in luck, but still I regard myself honoured, privileged and ‘lucky’ that I have had the opportunity to be a part of this amazing institution, and to work next to so many wonderful and inspirational people.”