Healesville GP Dr Elroy Schroeder is celebrating his 50th year as a registered doctor in Australia and is nearing 50 years of practice in the Healesville area.
Dr Schroeder migrated to Australia on 16 February 1971 from South Africa during Apartheid following the removal of the White Australia Policy. Two days later he registered with the Victorian Medical Board and began a short stint working in Murrayville in regional Victoria, before making his way to Healesville.
Today, Dr Schroeder has tended to the medical needs of six generations of one Healesville family and five generations for another two local families and has had a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of Healesville residents.
The Rotary Club of Healesville plans to honour Dr Schroeder’s achievement next month. Former colleague and Rotary vice president Ian Tinney had high praise for his longtime friend.
“I joined the year after Elroy … We got to know each other so well, as you could imagine in that time. He is a fantastic doctor.
“A lot of GP’s are in it for the money or all sorts of things but Elroy was in it always for the people and he is an extraordinarily acute diagnostician and he was able to manage all sorts of situations very effectively.”
Dr Schroeder explained his diagnostician skills came from a keen interest in detective work.
“I’ve always liked the detective side of medicine. Finding out things and correcting them,” he said. “When I was a kid, the books I liked reading were Sherlock Holmes. He just used a lot of logic in observing what he sees and analysing it.
“It’s that forensic side and the detective side that thrills me. You don’t get it everyday but when you do get it, it’s fun and it’s very fulfilling.”
Another rotary member, Terry Hill, has a close connection to Dr Schroeder thanks to an important discovery.
“I think his diagnostic ability makes him stand out amongst his peers,” Mr Hill said. “My wife went in there a few years ago now and she had a bit of a cough and a sore throat. Instead of just giving her something for her cough, he checked her heart and said, there’s something wrong.
“Straight away he got her another consultation with another person and the other doctor said yep we’ve got to bring you in. She ended up having open heart surgery. So she might not have been here if it wasn’t for Elroy’s ability to pick up something.”
Dr Schroeder described these individual but crucial diagnoses as his favourite moments in his medical career.
“About two or three times a year it happens where I’m really proud that I have saved a life.”
It’s a similar case for Rotary President Michael Hardinge, who is equally thankful for Dr Schroeder for spotting a skin cancer on the face of his mother.
“I think very few people have had such an immense and positive impact on the health, wellbeing and community of Healesville as Elroy has,” Mr Hardinge said. “I think if you live in Healesville or know someone who lives in Healesville, chances are their life has been impacted in a positive way by Elroy’s work.
“I know personally as well, he noticed a skin cancer on my mother’s face a number of years ago. And I do believe that if he didn’t notice that, she wouldn’t be here with us today.
“He was literally just walking past her in the corridor and he picked that up, so he’s incredibly good at what he does.”
Dr Schroeder considers himself “fortunate” to have never had a death while in the surgery room.
“I find that most of the things where I intervene successfully just came from flying from the seat of my pants and just a natural feel,” he said.
50 years in medicine and performing a variety of roles has led to many unique stories for Dr Schroeder, including regularly tending to the gory wounds of hungover timber workers who would have accidents on Monday mornings, assisting local police with unexplained or criminal deaths and working for the Australian Defence Force in Malaysia. He soon plans to detail his stories in his memoirs.
In his spare time, Dr Schroeder said he enjoys restoration projects, particularly on antiques, furniture and currently mechanical devices.
“I like restoring things to the original state they were in … In my day job I’m doing it with human beings but when I relax I’m doing it with mechanical devices,” he joked.
The Rotary Club of Healesville will be celebrating Dr Schroeder’s career on Thursday 8 April at their regular meetings. Rotary invites members of the public to take part in-person and virtually through Facebook. For more information and to register for the event, visit: rotaryhealesville.org