Dr Christopher Dunn says Wollongong had five general physicians when he began consultant practice in the 1970s.
“Now I can’t even count how many there are,” he said.
“We were a close-knit group, and had to be across all areas of general medicine.
“Now, there are far more opportunities in the Illawarra for specialists, we have excellent diagnostics and people just don’t have to travel as far to get excellent care.”
A much-respected senior specialist, Balgownie resident Dr Dunn has retired from private practice after more than four decades.
Dr Dunn, now 74, has treated more than 30,000 patients in his Wollongong practice during that time, with thousands more being treated via the public hospital system.
He had two uncles who were GPs, “and when I went through medical school I decided I wanted to be a physician”.
Dr Dunn began in Wollongong as a registrar in 1970, before later relocating from Sydney to establish a private practice in 1974.
He moved into the Crown Street premises shared with paediatrician Dr Allan James in 1975. Dr Dunn’s wife Anne has also retired, having worked as practice manager since the practice opened.
Dr James retired many years ago, and after more than 40 years at the same location Dr Dunn recently opted to retire and close the practice.
Patients from as far north as Coledale, to the Highlands and as far south as Batemans Bay have been referred to his care.
“It has been an absolute pleasure treating the patients of the Illawarra,” Dr Dunn said.
“I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to help people, especially as for many, it has been during some of their most difficult days.
“One of the things I’ve enjoyed most is getting to know people and being able to share a laugh with my patients and medical colleagues.”
He said although some aspects of the job had remained largely the same, technological advancements in areas such as diagnostic equipment had been significant, affording the ability to provide a more accurate diagnosis.
He also said treatment was much more effective in many cases.
“We know a lot more about the cause and the way to treat specific diseases,” he said.
“The way we diagnose things like cancers… It can be diagnosed much more efficiently and treatment can begin much faster.”
Dr Dunn has been a strong advocate for improved health services to the Illawarra.
He also served as head of the Department of Medicine at Wollongong Hospital, and chairman of the Medical Staff Council at Port Kembla Hospital.
He was supportive of improving services such as cardiology, respiratory medicine, oncology and diagnostic services in Wollongong, reducing the need for residents to travel to Sydney for specialist care.
He was also enthusiastic about the establishment of the medical school at Wollongong.
Dr Dunn joked that he was retiring due to “getting over the hill”, and planned to “live a more leisurely life”.
However, he’ll continue in his role as network director of Physician Education at the Illawarra Medical Network within Wollongong Hospital and the Royal Australian College of Physicians, a position he began in 2017.
For the past decade, he has contributed his spare time to training the next generation of physicians with the Royal Australian College of Physicians as a senior examiner.