WHEN Dr Alan Bray began working in vascular surgery, everything was done with “big cuts.”
“Some operations required three days in intensive care, and took three months to get over,” Dr Bray said.
“Gradually, over the years, we went from that to being able to do pretty much everything from a needle-prick in the groin – which meant patients stayed overnight, and went home well the next day.”
Dr Bray played a key role in shaping some of the biggest changes in the field of vascular surgery.
His efforts, and his service to medicine, have been recognised and honoured with an Order of Australia Medal.
The Hunter specialist pioneered the use of non-invasive vascular ultrasound testing in Australia.
“I got the first machine from America, and I didn’t know how to use it,” he said.
“A lot of the unsophisticated machines required a lot of technical skill.
“So I invited a well-known technician from America to come out and spend two weeks with me. We did quite a number of examinations on arteries, and from there, we developed cardiovascular ultrasound.”
Dr Bray established meetings in Newcastle for doctors and “technicians” – now called sonographers, to learn how to use the ultrasound equipment, as well as how to interpret it.
“Then, it was all about technique,” he said.
“The machines have made the process of examination a lot easier. It still requires quite a bit of skill and dedication, but now we can more or less map the arteries and veins in the body outside of the heart.
“It is easier for the patient and the sonographer.”
Dr Bray, who worked at most hospitals across the Hunter throughout his career, was also at the coalface of developing operative techniques to clear blockages and treat dilated arteries.
He is known as the “father of vascular surgery” in China, having taught some of the country’s leading vascular surgeons.
“These surgeons are working at very prestigious hospitals.
“They not only learned quickly, they developed it themselves,” he said.
“Now they are doing techniques that make the western world look a bit behind.”
Now retired, Dr Bray, 76, is living on the small farm in Woodville he used as a getaway to relax during his career.
“Vascular is a very stressful job, you can rapidly get into trouble when you’re dealing with arteries and veins. It’s not a job you can relax on.
“But you don’t realise how stressful it is until you retire, you sort of get used to it.
“I am so pleased that the patients don’t have to put up with those horrendous big operations we used to do.”