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Doctor retires after half-century career

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Gabrielle Duykers, Naracoorte Community News

Long-standing Naracoorte doctor Alison Gazard will be retiring this week, following a 52-year career in medicine.

Dr Gazard currently sees patients at her clinic on Smith Street in Naracoorte, and will complete her last day of work tomorrow on Thursday, September 30. 

Dr Alison Gazard
Dr Alison Gazard outside her Naracoorte practice. Photo: Naracoorte Community News

“The time is right for me to retire,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed a long career serving our local community.”

The 76-year-old graduated from the University of Adelaide in 1969 after six years of study.

She said getting into medicine was more difficult for prospective doctors today.

“We didn’t have the selection process you have now, it wasn’t so competitive,” Dr Gazard said.

She also recalled a distinct gender imbalance at the time of her studies, and said men accounted for more than 90 per cent of her cohort. 

“This meant that you had to be twice as good as them,” Dr Gazard said. “So I worked really hard.”

Born in Adelaide, she spent two years working as a resident medical officer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital after graduation.

It was when she started undertaking locum work in rural areas that she realised her love for country life.

“I found it far more satisfying than general practice in the city where you tended to just operate around prescriptions and referral forms,” Dr Gazard said.

“In the country you had to actually do things put in drips, resuscitate people, and do sutures.

“You needed a lot more skills.”

She worked as a general practitioner throughout parts of regional South Australia before meeting her late husband Michael during a placement in Keith.

The pair subsequently moved to Naracoorte to start a new farm and have their three children. 

After taking some time away from work to be a mother, Dr Gazard was appointed as the medical officer for Teys Naracoorte. 

However, a desire soon arose for her to see patients outside the meat processing plant, and in 1979 she began setting up her own clinic.

“I needed somewhere I could see people privately and my clientele wasn’t restricted,” Dr Gazard said. 

Her clinic consistently bulk-bills and provides a ‘walk-in only’ service for patients, many of whom are new migrants. 

Dr Gazard said she would see between 20 and 30 patients on an average day, and loved the opportunity to make a difference in her community. 

“Being able to help people and make them feel better is what I love most,” she said. 

Dr Gazard said a particular highlight of her career was her work with the Q-Fever Program, which saw her travel to remote areas to vaccinate people.

Dr Gazard said medicine had come an “impressively long way” since she first stepped into the field. 

“With the COVID-19 vaccine it was amazing how they managed to produce it in a short time,” she said. 

“Looking back on the Q-Fever vaccine and how many years it took for that to be developed, go through clinical trials, and then be accepted, it’s a big difference.”

Having treated patients for more than half a century, Dr Gazard said the most pertinent wellness issue facing rural areas was a lack of mental health support.

“The people who help deal with mental health problems are very busy and it’s hard to find somebody who can help,” she said. 

“It deeply frustrates me because there’s so many people, young and old, who need care.”

Upon retirement, Dr Gazard is looking forward to spending more time with her family, and participating in some of her many hobbies. 

“I like spinning wool, cooking, gardening, and sewing,” she said. “It’s important to have interests outside your work life that you enjoy.”

Naracoorte Community News 29 September 2021

This article appeared in Naracoorte Community News, 29 September 2021.

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