FOSTER Medical Centre general practitioner Dr Laurie Warfe reckons his life has gone in a full circle, with his present work closely resembling an earlier period in his career when he treated patients both in the clinic as well as at the local hospital.
And, among these postings, Dr Warfe has devoted more of his energy and his considerable kindliness, intelligence, and wit towards helping people in a multiplicity of ways other than with a stethoscope or a scalpel.
Nowadays, specifically since Sunday evening June 7, when the 2020 Queen’s Birthday honours list was made public, Dr Warfe may add three extra-special letters after his name to join an already impressive string of post-nominals.
Dr Warfe OAM has received the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to medicine and to the community.
He and his wife Jill, who has just retired from her own nursing career, are still trying to work out just who may have been responsible for putting him up for such an award, though “we do have our suspicions!”
The couple has been living in Foster since December of last year, with Dr Warfe “enjoying being part of an excellent, well-run country practice three-and-a-half days a week after I bumped into one of my old colleagues in town one day.
“Dr Trevor Andrews and I had worked together in general practice in Frankston for quite a number of years,” he said.
“When we met up again Trevor persuaded me to come and join the Foster Medical Centre to do weekend and locum work, and to help train medical registrars and students like we used to do at Frankston.
“We’ve always liked the countryside in South Gippsland,” Dr Warfe said.
“My great-grandfather on my mother’s side had a property in the district, and my father was born at Leongatha, so we do have a family connection.
“Jill and I decided we wanted to live in this area once we’d both largely retired, and so we bought a 24-hectare bush and pasture block up in the hills above Foster with a view of Wilsons Prom some three years ago,” he said.
“We’ve become hobby farmers, with half-a-dozen head of cattle, beehives, chooks, an orchard and a vegetable garden, and we might even aspire to self-sufficiency when our new house that’s about to start is built and we’re up there full-time.”
Dr Warfe grew up in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and followed his brother into medicine after finishing school, “back in the army call-up days”.
He won a military scholarship, which meant he was “looked after [by the Australian Army] as an undergraduate” while studying at Monash University, and that he was required to give “four years’ return of service” to the Army after he graduated.
Dr Warfe served two years at Townsville in Queensland and two at Singleton in New South Wales, before continuing his association with the Australian Army Reserve “for 25 years all up” and eventually retiring from its Medical Corps with the rank of Colonel.
He met Jill, a theatre nurse, while working as a resident at Box Hill Hospital soon after finishing his medical degree, and they married in 1980 before having three sons of their own and settling on the Mornington Peninsula where Dr Warfe hung out his GP’s shingle.
“At that time, the hospital at Frankston was called the Community Hospital, and the local doctors had fair a bit to do with the running of it, alongside working as a GP and training medical students,” Dr Warfe said.
“We did obstetrics, anaesthetics, and medical and surgical procedures; just as the Foster and Toora Medical Centre doctors do at the South Gippsland Hospital.”
Dr Warfe returned to university and obtained a degree in medical law, which led to his chairing the former Victorian Medical Board for four years, and then to two of his other current “sidelines”; sitting fortnightly on medico-legal matters in Medical Panels, and as a sessional member of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
During their family’s early time on the Peninsula, both Dr and Mrs Warfe volunteered at their children’s various sporting clubs and helped at school events and activities.
Because of his close ties to the military, Dr Warfe also became a member of his local branch of Legacy and worked with and for war widows and their children for many years as a Legatee.
Dr Warfe was a charter member of Rotary International’s Frankston Sunrise Breakfast Club that was established in 1990 and is a Paul Harris Fellow who was recently presented with a Sapphire Pin for his 30 years of service.
He produced and directed several of the Club’s theatrical performances and variety shows for the wider Rotary community, which included popular favourites such as Cinderella, Snow White and The Sound of Music, for teambuilding as much as for entertainment and fun.
“I wrote the history of the Frankston Sunrise Breakfast Club, and yes, I am thinking about becoming a member of the Rotary Club of Foster!” Dr Warfe said.
“Foster really is a friendly place and we feel we’ve been warmly welcomed into the local community,” he said.
“I’ve joined the Foster Golf Club, not that I play very well, and I’m looking forward to choofing around in my boat and going fishing on Corner Inlet, while Jill has become involved with the University of the Third Age and a couple of book groups, so we’re right at home already.”
Dr Warfe said he is not sure that during his career he has done any more than all the other dedicated GPs around the country who are working hard to look after their patients to the best of their ability.
“I would like to dedicate this award to all of my fellow GPs,” he said.
“They work tirelessly, often in hazardous circumstances, to provide primary care to their community but, together with their equally dedicated support staff, remain unrecognised and unsung.”