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College history - Practice histories

Box Hill Medical Centre, Victoria

Dr William Dickinson started in medical practice in Box Hill in 1883; just one year after the steam train came to the area. The practice was said to be at the north-east corner of Whitehorse Road and Station Rd West (now Clisby Street). Dr Dickinson came from Mount Rouse (later called Penshurst), where he had been the Health Officer and Analyst for about 20 years.

Dr Dickinson was made Public Vaccinator of Box Hill and Doncaster and the Health Officer for the Shire of Nunawading, drawing in 1887, the princely sum of 20 pounds per annum. He died in January 1888 aged 59 and was buried in the Box Hill Cemetry

Prior to Dr Dickinson, a Dr Sparling had been for 3 years, the first Health Officer to the Shire of Nunawading but was presumably non-resident. On the 9-10-1884 a Dr Ralph signed a vaccination certificate as Public Vaccinator for the district of Box Hill and on the 29-10-1885, Dr William Butler Walsh also signed a vaccination certificate on behalf of Dr Ralph. No further details of these two doctors could be found. It was about this time that the Box Hill Council decided, for the first time, to borrow money and appoint an Analyst, a Health Officer, a Letter Carrier and a Nightman. “Yes” said Councillor Rawlings, unaware that posterity immortalized his words, “I move that tenders be called for the supply of an iron-cart for the purpose of removing night soil addressed to the Secretary”

Dr Alfred Purdue Vaughan, known as Fred, arrived in Box Hill with his wife Alison in 1888. He was aged 27, and had come from Adelaide and later Parkville. He took up residence in Whitehorse Road, taking over Dr Dickinson’s practice. Around this time, doctors usually charged only those who could afford to pay, one guinea for home visits and ten shillings and sixpence for a surgery consultation. Dr Vaughn traveled between his various practices by pony, as far as Mt Dandenong or in a hansom cab. It is said he always wore a dark grey swallow tail coat buttoned to the neck. He carried his stethoscope and instruments in his bowler hat. Dr Vaughan also had a surgery at East Doncaster in Blackburn Road in an old shop opposite the East Doncaster School. He visited the surgery in Ryan’s Hansom Cab on certain days, until he bought a motor buggy which had large wheels and the seats were three feet off the ground.

Dr William Craig joined Dr Vaughan in 1895 briefly and was renowned for owning Box Hill’s first motor car, a single seater with a dicky seat. Quoting a Mr Bamford, ”--when community fetes and the like were held, he would fill the car with half a dozen children and drive them around the reserves in Whitehorse Road for a fare of 3d. each. Thus many of us were thrilled and scared by our first ride in a motor car”. Before buying the car, Dr Craig rode his bike on calls, delivering babies as far away as Warrandyte. An observer at the time can not remember if the Doctor arrived dinking Sister Coleman, the midwife, on the bar of his bike.

In 1895 the practice moved to 12 Rutland Street opposite the railway line. After a short time together however, they separated and Dr Craig continued his practice at the original site in Whitehorse Road.

Dr Craig died at the age of 81 on 28-10-1946. A truly remarkable fifty-one years of wonderful service, challenged only by Dr Noel Ramsey who had 55 years in general practice in Box Hill. One of Dr Craig’s sons, Clifford was a renowned surgeon in Launceston, later becoming the city's radiologist and celebrated author and historian.

Dr Henry Varley bought Dr Vaughan’s practice in 1923, after the latter’s death. After one year in the practice, at the age of 28, he was unfortunately killed in a skiing accident at Mount Buffalo.

In 1924, Dr James Ernest Shilliday bought Dr Varley’s practice in 26 Rutland Road next to Dr Vaughan’s house. He remained there for 18 months and then built on the corner of Cambridge and Station Streets, where later a garage stood (now it is a car park.) At the rear of this property is the oldest standing house in Box Hill with a currajong tree in the front garden that came from the garden of Edward Henty in Portland. It was in this house that Amy Blood, Box Hill’s first baby was born.

Dr Shilliday came from Mildura and graduated at Melbourne in 1923. He became the Health Officer in Box Hill in 1929, a position he held until 1974. He was also an Honorary Clinical Assistant at the Eye and Ear Hospital. Dr Shilliday later built rooms next to his home in 519 Station Street. Drs Stanley Kay and Noel Ramsey bought the practice in 1951. Nine years later the practice moved to a new surgery, over the road at 528 Station Street, where it has become the Box Hill Medical Centre. Since that time Dr Ramsey has practised in all areas of family health. He has been involved with the Box Hill Hospital, as an ongoing staff member and a past president of the hospital board. He has been on many local community committees and has taught many students and graduates during their general practice training. Dr Ramsey was honoured for his long association with the RACGP, with his appointment to Provost of the Victoria Faculty, and with the Queen awarding him the Medal of the Order of Australia.

Dr John Hewitt joined Drs Ramsey and Kay in the 50s and for 50 years devoted care to the community of Box Hill. Over these years, he was particularly dedicated to family care and many children have gone to head their own families under Dr Hewitt’s gentle guidance.

Other doctors to spend periods of time in the practice have been Dr Keith Layton, an obstetrician, Dr Joe Aarons and Dr Basil Nash. In the early eighties, Dr Tom Leung, a consultant surgeon, joined the practice-he was also fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese and retained a deep seated interest in the welfare of the Chinese community in Melbourne.

In the mid eighties, Dr Mal Brkic, (an anaesthetist), Dr Michael Burke, (Associate Professor at Monash) and Dr Gabrielle Wiehle joined the group. The current group of doctors include Dr Conrad Chiu and his wife, Dr Theresa Chiu, Dr Glen Davis, Dr Geoffrey Gidley, Dr Peter Shaw, (consultant physician) in mid 2003, Dr William Le in 2007 and Dr Jason Ong in 2008.

The views expressed by the authors of these articles are their own and not necessarily those of the publisher or the editorial staff and must not be quoted as such. Every care is taken to reproduce articles accurately, but the publisher accepts no responsibility for errors, omissions or inaccuracies contained therein or for the consequences of any action taken by any person as a result of anything contained in this publication.

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