Doctor reflects on 50 years in medicine as he leaves key role

Fiona Stanley Hospital.
Fiona Stanley Hospital.

ONE of Perth’s most respected surgeons has hung up his scrubs for the last time.

David Fletcher, known affectionately as Prof, retired as Fiona Stanley Fremantle Hospitals Group’s Head of General Surgery late last month.
The Bicton resident began his career as an intern at Fremantle Hospital in 1969 but his links to the building go back a further three years to when he was a medical student.

“Reflecting on my time, it’s interesting: at one moment you are young and then you are an old fart,” he said.

“My last day was difficult, I remember walking to my locker, peeling off the sticker with my name on it and then walking down the hall for the last time.”

“I was surprised by my wife Chrissie and colleagues with a painting of myself by Lesley Meaney.”

Dr Fletcher said his proudest moments were being able to teach people.

“That’s why I walked away, my colleagues are better than me now.”

David Fletcher.

He was involved in the commissioning of Fiona Stanley Hospital.

His career recognitions include Honorary Life Membership of the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons (1998) and being appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2018.

Elected a councillor of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 2015, Dr Fletcher improved teaching methods and helped create the Operating with Respect course.

He was also instrumental in developing and introducing laparoscopic surgery to Australia, and in 1990 performed the first laparoscopic gall bladder surgery in the country.

His connections to Fremantle are deep, with his father Harry Fletcher a past Fremantle MLA while mum Esme was an advocate for women’s rights in the 1950s.

Dr Amanda Foster, who will take over the role of Head of General Surgery, said Dr Fletcher was world-renowned as an upper-gastrointestinal surgeon and locally as a mentor who trained many others.

“In these relationships there was no sense of a hierarchy – he just led by example,” Dr Foster said.

“He was very supportive and nothing was too much trouble – he gave his number to junior doctors and urged them to call if there was a problem.”