Patrick Charles Cregan AM
19 November 1951 - 23 January 2017
General Surgeon and Surgical Leader
Patrick Charles Cregan was born in Sydney on 19 November 1951. He had three younger sisters; Catherine, Jennifer and Anne. After completing his secondary education at St Ignatius' College Riverview, New South Wales in 1969, he entered Medical School at The University of Sydney. He did his clinical years at the Royal North Shore Hospital graduating in 1975. He completed his residency training at Royal North Shore Hospital and moved to Concord Hospital in 1978 for his surgical training. He completed his training and was awarded his FRACS in General Surgery in 1982.
In 1983 he moved to what was then known as Nepean District Hospital as a Visiting Consultant General Surgeon. He continued his busy clinical practice at Nepean Hospital until his premature retirement from clinical practice in late 2014. He was an outstanding clinician with excellent clinical judgement and was an exceptionally good technical surgeon. Initially, he performed a broad range of general surgical procedures. Pat was a pioneer and pursued all new techniques with great enthusiasm and skill. He performed the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy in the Nepean region on 20 October, 1990. Following this there were many other new innovations pioneered by him.
As Nepean Hospital developed into a tertiary Teaching Hospital in the early 1990s, he focused on the subspecialty of Breast and Endocrine Surgery, whilst still maintaining a strong clinical interest and involvement in biliary, bariatric and hernia surgery. He was instrumental in the development of the Acute Surgical Unit (ASU) in 2006. At the time this was a bold new model of surgical care for patients presenting with acute general surgical conditions. The ASU is a consultant lead service with a team that is dedicated to the management of all general surgical emergencies. The same team functions 7-days a week, providing consultant lead care with significant improvements in patient outcomes. This model has been adopted by many hospitals across Australia and New Zealand.
Pat's involvement at Nepean extended way beyond his clinical work. Throughout his time at Nepean he strongly advocated for the improved services for the Nepean Blue Mountains population and for the access to these services to be equitable with those provided elsewhere in Sydney. As a result, he was instrumental in many improvements related to patient care, teaching, training and research at Nepean. These include:
- Upgrading Nepean from a District Hospital to a tertiary Teaching Hospital in the early 1990s.
- Establishing the Nepean Cancer Care Centre that opened in 1999, providing integrated, co-ordinated, high level medical oncology, radiation oncology and palliative care services to the Nepean, Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury population.
- Enabling the expansion of physical capacity with the building of three new wings:
- The West Block (Tom Hamilton Building) that opened in 1994 along with the expansion of the operating suite from 4 to 8 operating rooms.
- The South Block (Brian Spurett Building) that opened in 2000.
- The East Block that opened in 2012 with 3 new surgical wards and 6 additional operating rooms. In recognition of Pat's immense contribution to the delivery of health care to the population of Nepean and Blue Mountains the East Block was named The Patrick Cregan Building in July 2016.
Pat was the clinical Director of Surgery from 2000 until 2011 and in 2011 he became the inaugural Chairman of the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Board. A role he continued until he resigned in mid-2015, some 9 months after he retired from clinical practice.
Pat had a strong desire to improve surgical care that extended well beyond his involvement in the Nepean area. In 2004 in order to address serious governance issues related to the provision of surgical care across NSW he was instrumental in the establishment of the NSW Surgical Services Taskforce (SST). He chaired the SST from 2004 until 2011 and during this time made extensive improvements that resulted in the equitable and sustainable access to high quality surgical care across NSW. Many of the initiatives introduced by Pat have been adopted right across Australia. His outstanding contribution to surgery was recognised with the awarding of an AM on Australia Day January 26, 2017.
Although, his commitment to surgery was great, his love and commitment to his family was far greater. Pat and Suzanne met and fell in love during their years as medical students. They married in 1975 and have seven children; Rebecca, James, Edward, Thomas, Isabel, Charlotte and Louisa. The seven children have a unique bond seldom seen between siblings in smaller families, let alone a family of seven. During 2016 Patrick and Suzanne became the proud grandparents of Louie and Lilian.
Sadly, Patrick died on January 23, 2017 after a very protracted battle with cancer. His shoes shall never be filled by any single individual. His tireless work has left an enduring legacy of improved surgical care across NSW and Australia. He shall be sadly missed by all.
This obituary was kindly provided by Dr Michael Cox FRACS.