Dr. Andrew Cunningham has decided to hang up his stethoscope after 45 years of practicing at Stawell Medical Centre.
After a storied career, the beloved doctor drew his long career to a close on Thursday, June 29.
"I have known I was finishing up for three or four months, so I have been able to process it," Dr. Cunningham said.
"I feel like I am an airplane coming down to land, I have had the flaps down for a while and I have used enough petrol so I won't blow up when I land."
Dr. Cunningham said influential figures in his childhood helped him decide to pursue the medical field.
"I was inspired by a couple of uncles who were general practitioners in Melbourne," he said.
"I looked up to and respected them growing up."
Raised in Geelong, Dr. Cunningham completed his studies at Monash University in Clayton before spending a year in Bendigo after his degree in 1973.
Dr. Cunningham with his wife Sue proceeded to spend the following two years traveling (which included six months working obstetrics in England).
He would then return to Melbourne where worked for 12 months as a resident doctor at Williamstown District Hospital.
"It was a little like Stawell hospital at the time, it was a country town in the suburbs," Dr. Cunningham said.
In the six months before making the move to Stawell, Dr. Cunningham spent three months at the Royal Children's Hospital and three months at the psychiatric hospital.
In 1977 Dr. Cunningham made the move to Stawell under the tutelage of Dr. Castle.
"I felt reasonably prepared to go into a country job and the real reason I came to Stawell was at the time I graduated they were encouraging people to go to a qualified and accredited practice and be mentored," he said.
"He (Dr. Castle) was quite a famous doctor around here, he was a fabulous mentor."
When Dr. Cunningham was looking for a country destination to call home, he said Stawell "ticked all the boxes".
"My wife (Sue) was a Korumburra girl so she said as long as it's not flat, she didn't want to go to a flat place because she came from a hilly place," he explained.
"She wouldn't have tolerated Horsham.
"She also wanted to be able to visit family so Stawell was ideal.
"She was a teacher so her job allowed her to move which was a blessing."
When Dr. Cunningham started in Stawell he explained it was a bit nerve-racking.
"Our medical center grew like mad when I arrived. It was quite an exciting time," he said.
"I was unsure whether I would have enough patients, but now there are too many patients and not enough doctors.
"People didn't rush to the doctors as much back then."
Dr. Cunningham said he looked back fondly upon the upgrade to the Stawell Medical Centre in 1986.
"In 1984 we had the idea to expand the medical center, we had to borrow quite a bit of money but it was quite rewarding," he said.
"Very few general practitioners then were designed to be general practices; they were just old houses that were unoccupied.
"This was a purpose-built state-of-the-art facility for its time."
In the years preceding the medical center's upgrade Dr. Cunningham strengthened his involvement in the community.
"I was asked to be the leader of a fundraising campaign to pay for the new heated indoor pool in Stawell, which was a great experience," Dr. Cunningham said.
"I also got involved with musical comedy as a chorus man and we had a couple of children at that time too."
In the late 1980s, Dr. Cunningham also experienced a major health scare.
"A low point was when I nearly died," he said.
"I got blood poisoning, I didn't realise how sick I was but my wife was very scared.
"There was a possibility I may have died."
Dr. Cunningham said it would be hard to let go due to all the relationships he had formed over the years.
"One of the reasons I have not retired until now is I have enjoyed the patients and staff's camaraderie," he said.
"Quite a few patients will be sad to see me go because I have been there for so long.
"When you are in a country town, no matter what job you do, quite often your customers or in my case, your patients become your friends."
Dr. Cunningham said he was looking forward to enjoying all the luxuries of retirement.
"I am going to spend some time at the Stawell Historical Society as I am interested in things historical and Stawell is an interesting old town," he said,
"I will keep playing golf and play plenty more games of cards.
"I love bushwalking, Stawell has this lovely area that we call the ironbarks, the bush just to the northwest of Stawell, and I and my wife and love walking through there looking at the wildflowers."
Dr. Cunningham was very appreciative of the sacrifice his wife Sue had made moving to Stawell with him many moons ago.
"This has been a big experience for her, she has been here 40 plus years as well," he said.
"We can't forget it takes two to tango, it was a big strain on her."
Although Dr. Cunningham can no longer be found at the Stawell Medical Centre, he explained the couple wouldn't be going anywhere.
"I have no interest in leaving the town, Stawell is a great place," Dr. Cunningham finished.
"I will die here, it will be my home forever."
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox from the Stawell Times-News. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the region, sign up here.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.