He has dedicated his life to caring for the sick children of western Sydney, and now at the age of 85, Dr Brian Kearney is waving goodbye to paediatric medicine.
Starting his career in 1962 at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children – now named The Children’s Hospital at Westmead – Dr Kearney found a passion for caring for the most vulnerable of patients.
“When looking after children and watching the miracle of their development, I feel like I am present at the dawn of creation,” Dr Kearney reflected.
“Knowing that early diagnosis and treatment can allow that child to lead a normal and healthy life is both extraordinary and rewarding.”
Throughout his extensive career in medicine, Dr Kearney has worked at Westmead Hospital, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Parramatta Community Health Centre, where he provides treatment and diagnosis for children with physical and intellectual disabilities and behavioural issues.
Prior to commencing his practice in western Sydney, Dr Kearney worked as a paediatrician in the Civilian Medical Team in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He reflected that this was an eye-opening opportunity that allowed him to be more grateful of the health care services and resources available in his home country.
“I was the only paediatrician in a 30-bed ward that had two or three children in each bed. A region of about 10 million citizens had only one paediatrician, and that was me,” Dr Kearney said.
“I was caring for children who are more gravely ill than the children we treat in intensive care units at Australian hospitals, and this was life changing.
“I feel honoured that I was able to provide them with adequate help, no matter how little my contribution may have been.
“My enormous respect for the people of Vietnam endures to this day.”
Dr Kearney said that although sometimes challenging and heartbreaking, he has enjoyed every moment of his rewarding career.
“I think being a paediatrician is the best job in medicine and is one of the reasons why I have worked in this field so long.
“Knowing that I can help a very sick child get better, and make a difference in their lives is the best feeling in the world.”
In light of his retirement, Dr Kearney is not ready to settle down just yet.
“It’s not an end to work, more of a change of pace and focus.
“I have five children and five grandchildren, and I am looking forward to spending time with them.
“I also love reading and gardening, so I am sure I will be doing some of that.
“I didn’t stop at 65 and I am not stopping at 85. Although I won’t be practising medicine, I am not ready to relax just yet.”
While no longer a resident of Western Sydney, Dr Kearney said his heart will always belong to the west.
“I grew up in Parramatta and have been working here since 1968.
“They say home is where the heart is and my heart is here.”