A DOCTOR who spent more than a decade as the region’s first and only neurosurgeon has died, aged 72.
Dr Tony Bookallil died on Thursday after a short illness.
Dr Bookallil came to Newcastle in 1975 as the region’s first neurosurgeon and was the sole brain and spine specialist between the Hawkesbury River and Queensland border until 1988.
The father-of-three retired in 2004 but continued to work part-time until his death.
Dr Bookallil trained at Sydney University, St Vincent’s Hospital and then Oxford University before coming to the Hunter.
During his first decade in the region the specialist was on-call almost the entire time.
Over 25 years Dr Bookallil performed an estimated 6000 surgeries on Hunter residents including back operations, disc removals, spina bifida corrections, brain tumour resections and head injury repairs.
John Hunter Hospital neurosurgeon Dr John Christie said Dr Bookallil pioneered the neurosurgery speciality at John Hunter.
‘‘He had to train all the staff in how to look after neurosurgery patients with what, at the time, was fairly limited equipment,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s a lot of people around town who owe being here to him.’’
During his career Dr Bookallil witnessed the speciality evolving thanks to improved imaging techniques.
‘‘He was extremely unselfish and never sought recognition for himself. All of his efforts went to the care of his patients,’’ Dr Christie said.
‘‘He had a great commitment to public health and public hospital medicine in Newcastle for 30 years.’’
The man of science went on to study music in his retirement at the University of Newcastle.
He worked in the community at Lambton Swimming Club, Musica Viva, the Catholic Church and Tudor Singers.
Dr Bookallil’s funeral service will be held on Thursday at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Newcastle, at 11am.