After 52 years of dedicating his life to his patients and delivering over 1000 babies in Sale, Dr Simon Williams provided his final patient consultation on Wednesday, June 29, retiring as one of the longest-serving General Practitioners in Clocktower Medical Centre’s history.

Fifty years ago, the world was a very different place, and so was the world of medicine. In 1970, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists still considered homosexuality a mental illness. The contraceptive pill had only been accessible in Australia for nine years, and the first pharmacological treatment for Major Depressive Disorder was developed.

Dr Simon Williams has devoted his life to serving patients and the community with incredible care and dedication. Through his work as a general practitioner, with a major interest in midwifery and obstetrics and interest in psychiatry, Dr Williams has helped shape the society we recognise and live in today.

“In psychiatry, there has been a major development in terms of medications for one thing,” Dr Williams said.

“But there has also been a flourishing of the use of counselling and referral to psychologists and social workers and so on, which I think has made a big difference.

“The overall treatment for mental illness and other conditions such as depression and anxiety has improved a great deal as a result of the drugs and counselling with those two things now going side by side.

“In obstetrics, there has been a fantastic change in focus from it being a structured command where you have the patient and the family and the midwife, then you have the GP and the consultant, to now it is really a team thing.

“Everyone is in the team, the mother and baby are the main focus, and after that, it is a team including any family members that may be there, the midwife, the doctors, and they all make sure they focus on the patient.

“In the past, it was more or less a top-down military sort of style where if the midwives couldn’t do it, the GP would come along and do his bit, then comes the consultant who would say ‘we are doing a cesarean section and that’s it.’

“Now it is all thoroughly discussed, the patient and family must understand what is going on; otherwise, it can’t go ahead. So that is really a big change.

“On top of that, the use of epidural and anesthesia has been a big development too.

“It has made a big difference to people’s willingness to go through the procedure again and again,” Dr Williams chuckled softly.

“We no longer have women going for six or eight or 10 or 12 children. I had a family in the 70s and 80s that went to 11 children, but now, it just doesn’t happen.

“That brings up contraception which is another magnificent advance, but it is still not perfect,” Dr Williams remarked.

“But I do think it has made a huge difference to society and to people’s attitudes.”

Working, learning and teaching within the medical profession over the past 50 years, Dr Williams has been part of the most significant advances and changes in medical history, serving as the foundation of medicine today.

“It is allied to the changes in sexuality and the changes in people having more power, particularly women,” Dr Williams said.

“Women are getting a much better life now, rather than just continually getting pregnant.

“It must have been terrible for women to be continually pregnant!

“Now women have got more freedom. Society has improved.

“I should add another major change in my time has been abortion.”

Abortion was illegal in Victoria until the Victorian Parliament passed the Abortion Law Reform Act in 2008, amending the Victorian Crimes Act and codifying common law offences relating to abortion.

“In my early days, at the Royal Women’s Hospital when I was a student, I saw people, women, who suffered from botched abortion and post-abortion infections that killed them.” Dr Williams said.

“But through decriminalisation and the fantastic advancement of medical abortion, which is now available fairly readily, really has been a fundamental change.

“As well as other medical developments like the morning after pill and intrauterine device, there has been a lot happening for women [medically].”

Dr Williams’ medical journey began when he was a young man at Frankston High School, not far from finishing Year 12. One afternoon, Dr Williams was sitting with his father, who was also a general practitioner, when he asked, for the first time ever, ‘What are you going to do?’

“I was a lacklustre student, really,” Dr Williams said.

“I didn’t have much get-up-and-go and didn’t think much about what I was going to do. My parents didn’t say much until one day when I was in matriculation (Year 12), and my dad said for the first time ever, ‘what are you going to do?’

“And I said, ‘Ah, well, I think I might do medicine’.”

Following in his father’s footsteps, Dr Williams studied medicine, moving to Sale in 1972 to work as a general practitioner.

“When I first came to Sale in 1972, there was only one practice in town, and that was a mixture of specialists and GPs in what we called the grey building that has since been demolished, with the new hospital sitting on top of it really,” Dr Williams said.

In 1975, Dr Williams flew to the other side of Australia, working in Perth for nearly eight years before returning to Sale, working at Bass Court Medical Centre in 1983.

Dr Williams became a founding partner of Clocktower Medical Centre when Bass Court Medical Centre moved to Cunningham Street and rebranded in 1990.

Gavin Duckham from the Rural Workforce Agency Victoria with Dr Simon Williams.
Photo: Supplied

When the Clocktower Medical Centre moved to Raymond Street in 2003, Dr Williams followed, retaining his partnership with the practice until 2010, when he retired from his partner position after 19 years.

Dr Williams continued to work as an associate doctor at Clocktower Medical Centre, while also taking on a teaching role with Monash Rural School Medical Students, before retiring after 46 years of serving the Sale community and 52 years as a medical practitioner.

“The highlights of being a doctor and a general practitioner is facing all the problems that people present to you,” Dr Williams said.

“I have assisted over 1000 families with the delivery of their children over my time [in Sale], and that has been an incredibly satisfying part of my work.”

For Dr Williams, one of the most rewarding elements of his career has been his involvement with the Clocktower Medical Centre.

“Building this practice here [Clocktower Medical Centre in Raymond Street] was fantastic; it was the first really modern, comfortable practice to work in,” he said.

“It has progressed in leaps and bounds under the care of the management team, in particular, the two managers, Glenda Byers, who was marvellous in getting us going from 2003, and Caroline Driscoll has been magnificent since taking over.

“The practice is really thriving, which is amazing when so many other general practices are struggling across the country.”

Dr Willaims has spent nearly five decades caring for and helping the people of Sale, injecting compassion and dedication into the community and Clocktower Medical Centre, truly inspiring staff and his patients.

“Simon will be very sadly missed at the practice by his peers and friends, and also by his patients throughout the community and from Clocktower Medical Centre,” Practice Manager Caroline Driscoll said.

“The staff and his peers at Clocktower Medical Centre wish to convey their thanks for all he has done, the support he continually offers and the genuine care he gives.”

Former Clocktower Medical Centre practice manager Glenda Byers holds the utmost respect for Dr Williams, saying it was “such an honour to have had the privilege to work with him”.

While there is much sadness in seeing this marvellous doctor close the doors on his former life, Dr Simon Williams opens the doors to retirement, welcoming the time to spend with his loving and supportive wife, Robyn.

If there were ever a man deserving the blissful flexibility of retirement, it would be Dr Simon Williams.