Professor Barney Glover, Vice-Chancellor and President, Western Sydney University, Professor Annemarie Hennessy AM, Dean, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, Professor Peter Zelas and Sue-Anne Redmond, General Manager, Blacktown Hospital
A passionate advocate for his patients, a humanitarian who worked in Rwanda, Malawi and Zimbabwe, an Order of Australia medallist, a teacher and mentor to generations of doctors, and a passionate advocate for consumer engagement and the expansion of Blacktown Hospital – Professor Peter Zelas OAM has retired from Blacktown Hospital with a ceremony to dedicate the hospital library in his honour.
The library, located in the Western Sydney University Clinical School, has been officially named the Peter Zelas Library, acknowledging the outstanding contribution of one of our finest clinicians, former Dean of the WSU Clinical School, and a champion of Blacktown Hospital.
Describing him as a “cornerstone” of the hospital, Blacktown general manager Sue-Anne Redmond said Peter’s imagination, humility, clinical acumen, meticulous attention to patient care, and abiding respect for his team and his patients would long be remembered.
“Peter once said that our job was to do the very best by our patients and to return them safely home to their family,” Sue-Anne said.
“The patient and family were always uppermost in his mind.
“We also owe him a debt of gratitude for our expansion, which is a reality because of his and his colleagues’ advocacy,” Sue-Anne said.
Peter was instrumental in establishing the Clinical School and was a tireless advocate for the hospital, supporting quality of care, consumer engagement, and our major expansion.
He was also dedicated to the education of new clinicians.
“Professor Zelas has had a remarkable career through which he has positively influenced the lives of many, and has significantly contributed to the advancement of medical education in the Western Sydney region,” said Professor Barney Glover, Vice-Chancellor and President, Western Sydney University.
"His vision will continue to guide our decisions with respect to the Clinical School and medical education at the University."
Speaking at the event, Peter said he was "overwhelmed" by the honour and thanked his family, colleagues, patients and staff.
"I'm so appreciative of the honour you've bestowed on me. It's been a privilige to have had my career here," Peter said.
We wish Peter all the best for his retirement and we thank his wife Ingrid and his children for their support.
Above: Professor Peter Zelas at the WSU library named in his honour
Peter Zelas graduated from University of Sydney. He began his career at Sydney Hospital before moving to the UK in 1966, where he remained until the early 1970s.
In 1967, he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and later in 1971 a Fellow of Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
Upon his return to Australia, Peter joined Blacktown Hospital as a Staff Specialist, where he was instrumental in growing Blacktown Hospital from a small regional hospital to the expanded hospital that it is today, serving a diverse and multicultural community.
Peter established one of the first colorectal surgical units in Sydney, in an era when this was still a new approach to surgery. He has also worked as a colorectal surgeon in many other countries, including the USA, Somalia, Nepal, Indonesia and Liberia, and regularly volunteered for education tours through Specialists Without Borders, delivering much needed surgical education and training in Rwanda, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
In 2006, Peter was awarded a Master in International Public Health from University of Sydney.
He was actively involved in health service administration and has served as Chairperson for Division of Surgery, Vice Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer of the Medical Staff Council at Blacktown/Mt Druitt Hospital, and was recently appointed to the Governing Council of Western Sydney Local Health Network.
In 2006, Peter was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his service to medicine and to the community of Western Sydney, particularly through roles at the Blacktown Hospital and in the field of colorectal surgery.
He contributed significantly to advancing the education of medicine students at Western Sydney University and was appointed Clinical Dean at Blacktown/Mt Druitt Hospital, a teaching hospital for the then newly established UWS School of Medicine.
He successfully secured funding for Professorial Chairs for the School in Medicine and Surgery.
Professor Zelas has worked tirelessly with the local hospital and LHD to fund new Chairs that are much needed in the region, including paediatrics, obstetrics, cancer medicine and radiology.
In 2009, he secured an application from the University in partnership with the hospital to build the state of the art facility Blacktown Mt Druitt Clinical School. The facility is now serving the education needs of the hospital and clinical community, training the next generation of doctors, and exploring new areas of research.
For more images from the library dedication, see the Weekly Update
“About halfway through first year, students are taught how to examine the heart and the lungs, take a blood pressure and pulse. The first time a student feels a pulse is a light bulb moment. As clinicians we take it for granted, but there’s nothing like being there the first time a young person of 18 or 19 feels the pulse itself and suddenly gets it. Actually being there and showing them, nothing beats that.
Professor Peter Zelas, 2018