Dr Pieter Mourik (AM)

20 September 2021

Being recognised in the Australia Day honours was a highlight for this rural medicine advocate.

Why did you become an O&G doctor? Who or what inspired you?
My maternal uncle was a rural GP in Colac. I stayed with him for three months when I was four years old, while my mother was having her third baby. He took me on ward rounds, even operations and did surgery on me, under local anaesthetic, so I could watch. I became hooked on medicine.

When did your career begin?
I commenced medicine at Monash in 1966, at seventeen years of age.
I began my O&G term in 1969 at Queen Victoria Hospital with Professor Carl Wood as my mentor and advisor; he was inspirational for many students.

I graduated in 1971, then spent my first year at Geelong. I completed a three-month General Practitioner locum (as you were allowed to then) to save money to go to England so I could commence training in O&G and General Surgery. I wanted to be a rural procedural general practitioner.

In England, I worked O&G in Woking and Winchester, then Falkirk in Scotland.  I then travelled to Durban, South Africa, working in General Surgery as Senior Registrar, receiving over 1,000 emergencies a day; many trauma cases, stabbings and shootings, as well as brutal blunt trauma. Finally I moved to Pietermaritzburg in Kwa Zulu for six months of O&G, before returning to England in 1977 as a senior registrar in O&G at Guildford.

I returned home to Perth, working for four months as a Senior Registrar in Oncology under Tony McCartney. I covered the whole Kimberley area as the only specialist north of Perth.

I commenced group practice in Wodonga as a GP, being on-call for obstetrics and gynaecological emergencies twenty-four hours a day. After three years I set up my own specialist practice, which lasted ten years. I retired from private practice in 2005 but continued as an emergency locum with the Specialist Obstetrician Locum Service (SOLS) for a further ten years.

I fully retired in 2015 to my lifestyle farm at Wooragee, near Beechworth, Northeast Victoria

Any highlights from your career?
In England I was fortunate to visit Dr Patrick Steptoe in Oldham and witness laparoscopy and IVF being performed.
I met Professor Ian Donald in Glasgow, Scotland, who demonstrated his first ultrasound machine, which revolutionised obstetrics and gynaecology.

In Durban, I saw the introduction of CTG with Professor Hugh Philpott and the beginning of partograms. These completely changed our labour ward management for the better.
In 1979 I introduced epidurals to Wodonga as there was no resident specialist anaesthetist then, having performed over 3,000 epidurals in South Africa.

What activities were you involved in at RANZCOG? What changes did you witness?
I became a Foundation Fellow of The Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (later RANZCOG) in August 1979.
I clearly remember my first visit to College House in LaTrobe Street, there were very few women. I thought I had joined an old man’s club. Now I am one of those old men! I am very glad that many more women are our colleagues in RANZCOG.

I was elected as a Provincial Fellows representative on RANZCOG Council in 2002 joining Dr Diane Mohen, representing the 137 rural specialists. One of our greatest achievements was to convince Council to appoint a GP Dip. Obs doctor as an observer member of RANZCOG. Dr Jeff Taylor was the first representative, he did a marvellous job.

Another achievement was we were able to convince Council that trainees must have a rotation through a rural unit; this has been a popular rotation and a huge success for rural recruitment.

What have been some of the greatest changes you’ve witnessed as an O&G doctor, between the time you entered the profession until the time you retired?
My first three years of training in Obstetrics was before ultrasound, epidurals, CTG, FBS and partograms We only had X-ray to confirm multiple pregnancy or gross foetal abnormality.
I started in gynaecology before ultrasound, CAT scans and MRI, before laparoscopy and urogynaecology. Sub-speciality in oncology was just commencing in 1978.

Do you have any advice for O&G doctors transitioning to retirement?
My strong advice to O&G doctors (specialists and general practitioners) about retirement is to ask a peer you trust to let you know when it’s time; unfortunately, insight is often missing. I knew it was my time when I was called for an emergency PPH at 3 am (something I’d normally relished). I had the shakes and staggers from anxiety. I knew then it was time to quit. I don’t miss those 3 am phone calls.

My other advice is to watch my YouTube video Piet Mourik Retirement.

Was there a patient and/or a momen that had the most significant impact on you during your career?
The most interesting patient I ever experienced was in Kwa Zulu, South Africa. I had a call from my Resident in Labour Ward that he was delivering twins. He had delivered the first, but “could not find the second twin”. I attended the labour ward and confirmed a second baby, which was in transverse lie with a foetal heart of normal.
There were three possibilities:
  • Uterus didelphys, but no separate vagina or cervix.
  • Ruptured uterus, but no pain, bleeding and the foetus alive
  • An extra-uterine pregnancy (heterotopic)
A laparotomy confirmed an extra-uterine pregnancy, membranes intact. Both babies survived.

Career highlight?
Career highlights have been many; it has been an absolute privilege being an O&G in the country. I believe the huge improvement in safety of childbirth, just in my forty years, has been wonderful.
Also, in 2010, I was Awarded the Australian Rural Doctor of the Year by the Rural Doctors of Australia; the only Specialist ever to win this Prestigious Award. In 2012, I was Awarded a Member of the Order of Australia: “For service to medicine as an obstetrician and gynaecologist, to the promotion of medical services in rural and remote areas, and to education”.
What do you do now?
Now, I’m completely retired. I manage a hundred-acre lifestyle farm near Beechworth. It is a paradise. I grow most of our vegetables and fruit but avoid growing and eating animals. We are one hundred percent solar powered, with our own spring water supply.
I also have a large worm farm, which produces over five thousand litres of worm juice each month and worm castings. This provides fertilizer for the paddocks and the garden. I have planted over two thousand native trees for the resident wildlife, which includes many koalas and over forty species of birds.
I have been very privileged to have had a long and interesting career in O&G. I can thoroughly recommend rural practise as it can be challenging, diverse and rewarding, but join a group practice, don’t go solo.

Piet   Piet and his wife, Libby

Piet at home   Farm view   I  get 500 kilograms of kitchen waste every week (one of the 60 litre red containers is there in the photo); from 2 hotels in Beechworth, it saves the landfill

Image 1: Pieter
Image 2: Pieter with his wife, Libby
Image 3 & 4: Pieter on his hobby farm.
Image 5: Pieter's worm farm, which gets 500 kgs of kitchen waste per week, diverting it from landfill. 




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