Doctor who pioneered Border care

BILL Stephens, a doctor who pioneered coronary and intensive care in Albury, has died aged 80.

William Bondfield Stephens developed and provided the first specialist medical services to the Albury and Riverina region over a period of more than 30 years.

In 1983 he was the royal physician for the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales when they stayed at Woomargama.

Dr Stephens was born on Ocean Island — part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands — where his father was the Pacific island’s medical officer for two years.

His mother, Win, was a nurse and the couple went on to have four sons, including Ted, Geoff and Mark (Lazy Harry) — who lives and works in Beechworth.

After the family returned to Australia, Dr Stephens attended Ivanhoe Grammar and Wesley College and completed medical school at the University of Melbourne.

He married Judy Morris, of the Rutherglen winemaking family, and trained further in London, where he received his membership of the Royal College of Physicians.

Dr and Mrs Stephens chose to settle with their growing family (Tim, Andrew, Kate and Penny) in Albury in 1964 at the urging of Dr Allan Hogan.

As the only local specialist physician, Dr Stephens helped set up coronary and intensive care services at the base hospital.

He was first on call for all acute medical cases at the time, including paediatric cases as the hospital had no resident staff.

Dr Stephens set up monthly outpatient clinics in centres including Cobram, Deniliquin, Corowa, Berrigan and Holbrook.

He was also the first to establish endoscopic services in Albury so patients wouldn’t have to travel to Melbourne for gastroscopies and colonoscopies.

Dr Stephens’ daughter, Professor Kate Allen, said he completed a doctoral thesis on cardiovascular risk factors in returned Vietnam veterans in the region under his care and was the first country physician in Australia to receive his MD — the oldest degree of the University of Melbourne.

Later, he trained many residents and registrars in rural rotations from St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, also tutoring at Monash University.

His final medical role was working for the Department of Veteran Affairs after marrying Judy Yoffa and moving to Melbourne after the death of his first wife in 1994.

Professor Allen said her father was a warm and gentle man with a keen sense of humour.

“He was quick to tout to visitors the wonderful benefits of raising a family in the Albury region,” she said.

Dr Stephens is survived by his second wife, four children, three stepchildren and 16 grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at Christ Church, South Yarra, in Melbourne today.

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