JUST OVER 20 years ago, Horsham's Dr Alan Wolff founded a program that would change clinical pathways in hospitals right across Australia.
His dedication to medicine both before and after the year 2000 led, or stemmed, from the creation of the Clinical Pathway Program.
Dr Wolff tirelessly searched and implemented new ideas which would enhance the hospital experience across the board while serving as the Wimmera Health Care Group's director of medical services for 36 years.
On the Queen's Birthday, Dr Wolff's name will be placed alongside others who serve the community - receiving the Order of Australia Medal.
"The Clinical Pathway Program is a tool to try to find improvements in quality and safety of care in both large and small hospitals," Dr Wolff said.
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"That program began in the Wimmera and we developed a method of being able to view medical records where we found adverse events and were able to put things in place to reduce the chance of those events happening again.
"That then became Victoria-wide and then Australia-wide. We wrote it up for the Medical Journal for Australia.
"In fact, we ended up writing a book about the methods that we used which is still read today.
"Really, Horsham became the centre of starting that program."
Dr Wolff started his medicine journey in high school and went straight into the medical faculty - a process he said was "pretty ridiculous" when he looked back at the process.
"You're way too young to understand what it (medicine) is all about," he said.
"Medicine was something I always wanted to do. It was something I saw as a student and general practitioners came to a diagnosis and what sort of treatments and things were available.
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"There was a lot of options and things that you were exposed to."
Dr Wolff and his wife, Yvonne Cymbalist, came to the Wimmera together and both have long careers serving the Wimmera community.
"I was very fortunate. I stayed with Max Griffiths who was an anaesthetist who very kindly let me sit in with him for 12 months in Horsham when I first came," he said.
"He was very generous and he let me sit in with him and I saw everything a medical director did in a country hospital.
"He retired and I replaced him. It was a really good opportunity to see what it was all about. He (Dr Griffiths) was a very imminent anaesthetist who trained probably a whole generation of anaesthetists."
Dr Wolff said during his tenure at the Wimmera Health Care Group he received considerable support and was allowed the freedom to do things.
"You could read about something that someone was doing medically - such as something in a medical journal about a fantastic program they are doing in England," he said.
"Or it could be some innovative thing they've done on the other side of Victoria.
"You can then come here and say I think this would be a good idea and could do this and you could go ahead and do it.
"You could really read something in the morning and in theory practice it and have it up and running by the afternoon.
"There's heaps of opportunity. Whereas if you are sitting in somewhere like Melbourne there are heaps of people you need to convince to let you try a change."
Over 20 years on from when the Clinical Pathway Program was first founded, Dr Wolff said he still was pleased when he walked around the hospital and could identify the changes to process that was put in place from the findings.
Dr Wolff retired from the Wimmera Health Care Group medical director role in 2020.
"Even though this became a national program, it was always built with the Wimmera residents in mind," he said.
"I'll miss not being able to wake up on a Monday morning, having read something over the weekend, and being able to implement something on a Tuesday.
"There have been so many people who have contributed to the success of this over the years.
"I was initially pleasantly surprised when I received notification I would be receiving the award on the Queen's Birthday. It's nothing something I was expecting. It's nice to know it will leave some sort of legacy and the pathway program will be continued to be used in many years to come.
"The Wimmera Health Care Group has been enormously supportive and allowed me to do a whole lot of innovative things and continues to be supportive.
"It's been really fantastic."
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