the limbic would like to congratulate the cardiologists who have been awarded Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Over the next week we profile the three recipients who have been awarded the prestigious accolade this year for their significant services to medicine as cardiologists.
Associate Professor Ronald John Dick (OAM) has been honoured for his service to medicine as a cardiologist.
Ronald Dick was drawn to a career in interventional cardiology more than 30 years ago when the speciality was on the verge of a proliferation of new therapies and treatments that could finally have the potential to improve the lives of patients in coronary care.
“It was the late 70’s, coronary units were well established but there wasn’t very much we could do for patients who wound up there. In fact, there were people who had profound cardiac failure and we used to admit them, try to manage their complications but for many it would be a downward course – we really didn’t have any therapies to improve their outcomes,” Professor Dick told the limbic.
It wasn’t until the early 80’s that outcomes for patients started to change.
“The year I graduated was the same year that streptokinase had been introduced,” he recalls.
It was around the same time that aspirin became an established therapy for myocardial infarction and coronary angioplasty was introduced to Melbourne hospitals where Professor Dick was completing his cardiology term as a resident.
“It was a very rapidly developing field – we went from watching patients eventually deteriorate from their condition to being able to offer therapies that could actually reduce the risk of death from myocardial infarction – even almost halving it in appropriate patients.”
Some thirty years on, Professor Dick, now the director of the cardiovascular unit at Epworth Hospital – a position he’s held since 1995, says the new challenge facing cardiologists is the changing face of patients who present for procedures – they are now much older and have many more comorbidities to navigate treatments around.
“From the time I started you didn’t get into coronary care if you were over the age of 65 … people at that age were not given the opportunity to have interventions done if they were considered elderly. Now we’re currently operating on patients who are 85 and 90 to make them live better and hopefully a little bit longer.”
An early supporter of TAVI and its expanding role in managing valvular heart disease Professor Dick says many more patients will be considered acceptable for candidates for the procedure
“The average age of patients at our centre who have had this procedure is about 83. We’ve got a group of 90 year olds though who have also done very well with the procedure and who are living better because of the intervention.
In the past, it was only the young, fit and relatively healthy individual who would be given the opportunity to access these interventions. What’s really changed now is that we’re able to improve the cardiovascular outlook for our more elderly cohort of patients.”
The father of five said he was very pleased to accept the OAM, which recognises his work not just in cardiology but also for the significant contributions he has made to hospital administration and medical education.
His advice to cardiologists entering the field is not to go for the fastest route to get to the finishing post.
“There’s always room for good people. If you’re good at doing something you will always find your place.”