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Emeritus Professor David Bruce

UWA Medical School

"Adhere to a better ratio of student social activities to study time, otherwise known as the pub:library ratio."

David Bruce was educated at Harris Academy, Dundee, Edinburgh Medical School and UNSW. He and his wife came temporarily to Australia to work as junior doctors and never returned to Scotland. Together they contributed 85 years of medical practice. Physician training at Royal Perth Hospital was followed by a research fellowship at the Garvan Institute, where he completed a doctorate on the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes. He returned to Perth, specialized in Geriatric Medicine and was a Consultant Geriatrician at Royal Perth Hospital for almost a decade. Professor Bruce joined UWA in 1995, with a dual appointment based at Fremantle Hospital: Associate Professor in Medicine and Head of the Geriatric Medicine Department. He was Head of the School of Medicine & Pharmacology for some years and was promoted to Winthrop Professor. His research program focused on common geriatric syndromes including dementia, falls and fractures, and mood disorders. With the Fremantle Diabetes Study group, his combined interests proved fruitful in the emerging field of atypical diabetes complications in older people. Under his leadership, the Geriatric Medicine Department developed many new services for the specialist management of older people within the local community and hospitals.

Most interesting aspect of my career

The variety of activities required of a clinical academic is endlessly fascinating. Caring for sick patients keeps you grounded, educating younger people from different disciplines maintains inquisitiveness, conducting research develops analytic skills. These analytic skills allow one to authoritatively question many prevailing assumptions that underpin everyday clinical practice and health-related systems.

Most important experiences at UWA

I spent 20 years as a medical doctor before joining UWA, so having time dedicated to academic activities was novel and exhilarating. The colleagues at UWA were such interesting people, even the less agreeable ones, and life was never dull. I was Head of School (Medicine & Pharmacology) for a time. This was memorable and challenging, but meetings with colleagues from other faculties were particularly enjoyable.

Where did you think you would end up when you began your career?

My career goals changed frequently, often shaped by shifting circumstances. I had not planned an academic career but knew I made the right choice when I joined UWA. My great, good fortune was to complete a doctorate during physician training. Consequently, I was able to apply to UWA when an ideal opportunity presented itself. There, I found myself surrounded by good and supportive colleagues at the Medical School and the hospital.

What do you consider to be your most significant achievements?

The clinical leadership task was to improve a small and inadequate geriatric department. I collected data to advocate for improvements and was able to grow the department to enable the provision of a comprehensive specialist geriatric service. Geriatric education was a key strategy in this process and I was heavily involved in its promotion and delivery to doctors and health professionals, as well as UWA students. I researched many age-related conditions, often in relation to diabetes through my involvement with the Fremantle Diabetes Study, resulting in many highly cited papers.

Where to from here?

My colleagues in Geriatric Medicine invited me to continue to attend meetings and provide mentorship and advice. I will continue to help my UWA collaborators write up the extensive data collected in the Fremantle Diabetes Study. My other plans are to pursue lifelong hobbies, bird-watching and hiking, and continue some volunteer work. I may get lean and fit but may just enjoy spending more time with my wife, family, and friends.

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