Emil Andrew Popovic
22 March 1957 - 22 March 2011
Emil Popovic was a most exceptional person and neurosurgeon. He was born in Melbourne on the 22nd March 1957 - his parents were post-war Polish immigrants. He was educated at the Nunawading State School, Mitcham State School and Mitcham High School. His background was not one of great privilege but was that of an average Australian school boy who rose to great heights by determination, hard work and studious application of his talents.
He graduated from the University of Melbourne Medical School in 1980 having won the T.F. Ryan Prize in Anatomy, the H.F. Summons prize in Otolaryngology and the Margaret Ryan prize in Clinical Medicine. His interest in anatomy continued after graduation as he was a tutor in anatomy and won the RACS Gordon-Taylor Prize in Anatomy for the top mark in the Anatomy primary exam (as it was then known).
He obtained his FRACS in neurosurgery in 1991 having trained primarily in Melbourne but with one year in Perth. He spent 1992 in the Mayo Clinic and then returned to work in Melbourne - at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Royal Children's Hospital, Epworth Hospital and Melbourne Private Hospital. In 2001 he moved to Perth and worked at the Royal Perth Hospital, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and the Freemantle Hospital.
Emil was an innovative surgeon. He was able to do what many surgeons cannot, namely think outside the square. He was highly respected by his colleagues and loved by his patients. A measure of his intellectual capacity is the fact that he listed over 40 publications which is remarkable for someone with a busy surgical practice.
He had talents outside of medicine. He was an excellent pianist playing music from Chopin to Beatles. Less known was his football ability. He had a long standing relationship with his beloved Essendon Football Club from aged 17. By the age of 21 he was listed on the senior players list, at a time when his medical studies were also drawing on his time. Those who knew his determination and skills believe that he could have had a successful AFL career had he decided to travel that road. He was also a keen tennis player and swimmer.
The strength of his life was his family: his wife, Jane, and their three children. His tragic death on his 54th birthday in 2011 was something that his family and friends had difficulty in comprehending. His funeral at the Christ Church Grammar School Chapel was very moving and was attended by many colleagues, patients and friends. A measure of his esteem in the surgical community was the number of interstate surgeons who attended. We will all miss his cheeky boyish grin and great intellect.
Obituary kindly provided by Glenn McCulloch FRACS.