Professor George Kannourakis jokes he is a "carbon-neutral" doctor.
And like all good jokes, there's an element of truth to it.
For the past 23 years, the Ballarat-based oncologist and hematologist has been travelling to Horsham, Ararat and Stawell to administer chemotherapy to Wimmera cancer patients.
With the four-and-a-half hour round trip, Professor Kannourakis estimates he saves 50 to 60 people having to make that same journey to see him.
He set up the first chemotherapy clinics in Ararat and Stawell's hospitals in 1996 and 1997 respectively.
"My colleague, Dr Rodney Bond, whose practice I joined in 1996 when I moved up from Melbourne, set up the first clinic for chemotherapy in Horsham, and I was supporting him when he was away," he said.
"Rodney was doing the regular clinics up at the Wimmera Base Hospital in Horsham, and when he decided he could no longer go, I took over that - which was about the end of 2005.
"We set them up so we could train the nurses in how to give chemotherapy and I had a 24-hour availability service - in other words the nurses could ring me at any given time to check how to best help patients."
Professor Kannourakis, who turns 65 in August, was born in Greece in the village of Siana, on the island of Rhodes. He moved to Australia with his family at the age of seven.
He said medical research had interested him as a career path from when he was in high school.
"I had no idea (why), but I somehow had this vision of doing research in the country areas," he said.
Today, Professor Kannourakis is the honorary director of the Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute, where a team of researchers looks at how the body's immune system can be used better to attack cancers.
Research at FECRI is applied to samples taken from patients, including patients from the Wimmera.
"In essence, what we are looking at is proteins on cancer cells that act as a defence against the immune cells form attacking the cancers," he said.
"We realise now a lot of cancers develop in people because of this, and we are hoping to produce what are known as antibodies to these proteins to stop them."
Professor Kannourakis said his interest in cancer patients from rural areas had grown over the years as he came to appreciate country people.
"I like the fact they're salt-of-the-Earth type of people," he said. "I also realise the tyranny of distance that affects them when they have to travel.
"Often in the old days, chemotherapy was not very nice - so every time they travelled, they would have to stop on the roadside to be sick.
"That made me realise these people needed to have their treatment closer to home, so that's one of the things that initially made Dr Bond and I realise what needed to be done.
"Ballarat is a long way for people to go to have treatment - often for short consultations - and they're not exactly in great shape when they're travelling.
"For me, travel is one of the things we hope to try to avoid for patients. Even to get to Horsham for treatment, people sometimes have to travel for an hour, or an hour and a half, so if you add another two hours each way it really makes it tough. A lot of farmers who are affected can't afford this sort of time."
Today Professor Kannourakis travels to Horsham one Wednesday a fortnight and Stawell every second Wednesday to order and supervise chemotherapy for patients.
He estimates he sees up to 60 patients in an average day, which starts at 7.45am and ends about 9.30pm.
Medical oncologist Dr Craig Carden has taken over the Ararat Chemotherapy unit, consulting on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month.
He said Rachael Littore, a Murtoa cancer survivor whose "Rachael's Wish" fundraising drive helped fund the cancer centre, was one of his most memorable patients in his two decades of consulting in the region.
He is now confident Wimmera cancer patients will receive timely and comprehensive treatment.
"What I think will happen is - and it's already happening each week - I'm asking, 'Have we got the resources to look after these patients up there?' and the answer is yes," he said.
"I'm available 24/7 for my patients, so I can get a phone call from the nurses or registrar or intern at any hour of the day about one of my patients.
"I also do regular teleconferencing, and with Sister Carmel O'Kane at the Wimmera Cancer Centre we are pioneering this new three-way system of teleconferencing, where patients at nursing homes in Murtoa or Rupanyup can speak to us both.
"As long as you have that sort of back up, you can give patients much more care than they have had in the past.
"The administration of the immunotherapy and chemotherapy is not the issue - it's the after care that's important. Do you have physicians, do you have intensive care?
"I think Horsham has the facilities to manage the bulk of patients undergoing chemotherapy and immunotherapy, so to cut a long story short it means more patients can have their treatment in places like Horsham now."
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