A FORMER Ararat doctor has received one of the nation’s highest honours on Australia Day, the Order of Australia Medal.
Graeme Bertuch was a doctor in Ararat for 38 years.
His contribution to the community includes 12 years on the Ararat Hospital Board, now East Grampians Health Service and a role as the medical officer for Health for Ararat.
During his time as a partner at the Ararat Medical Centre Dr Bertuch developed and implemented the general practitioner recruitment program and had a stint as the head of the Redevelopment Control Committee.
He was also a locum at the Royal Flying Doctors Service from 1994-95.
Dr Bertuch said he was very surprised to have received the honour.
“In country areas everyone works hard and puts in – it makes a country town and a society work,” he said.
He said he always wanted to be a doctor.
“I was altruistic when I was young and then I was fortunate enough to get into the right stream at school,” he said.
Dr Bertuch said the highlight of his career was Ararat itself and looking after the community.
“Patients, once you get to know them, become your friends,” he said.
Dr Bertuch said some of the little girls he delivered went onto become mothers themselves, and he also delivered their babies.
He said he also enjoyed the variety of work a country doctor came across.
Dr Bertuch also spent time at Willaura, working with patients for 22 years after the town’s doctor retired in 1991.
“There were lovely people in the community,” he said.
Dr Bertuch was forced to go into retirement in 2014 after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
He still likes to do his part to contribute.
“I do some volunteer work in the MND society to get people to understand the disease,” he said.
“I write articles for their newsletter.
“I put the research into some sort of order so people can understand.”
Dr Bertuch said his former profession helped him come to terms with his diagnosis.
“Having been in medicine for so long, you see people get all sorts of nasty diseases, I’ve counselled people about living and dying and now nothing surprises me – it’s all part of humanity,” he said.
Dr Bertuch has already been recognised by the Ararat community with an East Grampians Health Service Health Lifetime Achievement Award and a Rural Workforce Agency Victoria award for significant contribution to rural health.