William Dott

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William Alexander (Bill) Dott
Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgeon - Facio-Maxillary
14 December 1917 - 14 September 2011

On 14 September 2011, Australia lost one its first and finest Facio-Maxillary Surgeons.

William Alexander (Bill) Dott was born on 14 December 1917, the son of William Alexander and Margaret Dott, his father practising as a dentist in North Melbourne. He was educated at Melbourne Grammar and then followed in his father's footsteps, graduating in Dentistry at the University of Melbourne in 1939.

By this time, the war had started, and Bill was soon in the Dental Unit of the AIF, with the rank of Captain. Early in 1942, it was thought that the Japanese would invade Western Australia. His unit was sent over there in cattle trucks, and when there was no action, it was sent back again. He knew what it was like to travel "cattle class", and did not join with the R.S.P.C.A. in objecting to cattle crossing the Nullabor by train. Bill then served in New Guinea and Borneo, where for his services he was Mentioned in Dispatches. Just prior to the armistice, his unit was sent to Kuching to help in the repatriation of the Prisoners of War. He was to see the human suffering that had been inflicted by the Japanese and this left an indelible impression - certainly something that he never forgot nor forgave.

In November 1946, following demobilization, he joined the Dental Unit at the Alfred Hospital, led by Roy Cash. It wasn't long before he was to witness a grossly displaced fracture of the mandible in an edentulous old lady, plated by C.A.M. (March) Renou, and this was to play a dominant role in his career. In addition to running his private practice and his work at the Alfred, Bill returned to the University of Melbourne doing research, for which he was awarded first the M.D.Sc. and then the D.D.Sc..

Bill's main interest was in the clinical side of dentistry, based at the Alfred Hospital. He was appointed as Clinical Assistant (the only one) to the Oral Surgeon, Professor Arthur (later Sir Arthur) Amies, which involved him in all the trauma cases. Bill soon had a significant experience in the management of fractured mandibles and depressed malars, as at that time, the Alfred received more than 50% of Melbourne's major motor car accident patients, many brawls ended pugilistically (knife fights were rare), and elbows were commonly used in Australian Rules football.

In 1952, Bill decided to go to England and the Continent to see the advances being made in the Facio-Maxillary field. He was most impressed with the top English surgeons and famous Plastic Surgery units. Realising that all the senior Facio-Maxillary Surgeons were doubly qualified, and that this was a great advantage both clinically and professionally, he returned to the University of Melbourne to study Medicine, graduating M.B.B.S. in 1959. Bill completed his intern year at the Alfred in 1960, and probably holds the unique distinction of being taught by the Professor of Surgery in the morning, and being called to consult on one of his patients the same evening!

In January 1955, Bill was appointed honorary Facio-Maxillary Surgeon at the Alfred Hospital, a newly created position, and one of the first such positions in Australia. At the same time, John Snell was appointed as Head of the newly formed Plastic Surgery Unit, and the two worked closely together, sharing an outpatient clinic at the Alfred, as well as their private rooms, first in Collins St and later Richmond. They had a large experience of patients with fractured mandibles treated by either intra-oral fixation or plating, and were able to report on a series of 500 patients. In addition to his technical skills, Bill would always listen, displaying many of the characteristics of an old fashioned doctor.

Bill was also Consultant Facio-Maxillary Surgeon to the R.A.A.F. with the rank of Group Captain. He was admitted to the Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1974, having for some years given lectures to young surgeons preparing for their Fellowship examinations.

Bill was Chairman of the Medical Committee at the Alfred 1973-74, and later Chairman of the Old Residents and Graduates Society. He retired from his position of Facio-Maxillary surgeon in 1983. With time to spare, he became Assistant to the Director of Road Trauma Services in 1984, during the formation of the Trauma Unit.

Always proud of his Scottish ancestry, Bill was an active member of the Melbourne Scots, later a Committee Member, and finally elected a Life Member. He always enjoyed a game of golf, and could be dangerous off his long handicap. He was a great supporter of the Essendon Football Club, his beloved Bombers, and was for many years an Essendonian. A regular monthly fishing expedition was another of his extra-curricular activities, and I gather highly successful if not measured by the number of fish caught.

One of Bill's outstanding characteristics was his loyalty, not only to his friends and principles, but to anyone to whom he felt an injustice had been done.

On his birthday in 1962, Bill married Shirley Hume ("Aunt Shaws" to her many nieces and nephews), who had been his dental nurse after the war. Unfortunately she did not always enjoy the best of health, but she was always there to support Bill. They were to spend the whole 39 years of their married life at their home in Coombs Avenue, where they were known for their hospitality. Shirley pre-deceased Bill by 10 years.

Bill's last years were marred by the onset of macular degeneration, resulting in near-total blindness, but he displayed great fortitude and perseverance living with this disability. He was able to continue to live at home, where he died on September 14 2011. At his funeral service at Holy Trinity in Kew, where he was a regular attender, there was standing room only.

Nick Hamilton FRACS