Dr Richard Wingate
1946 - 2014
Larger than life and with a personality that filled the room, Richard Wingate will be greatly missed by his family, his many friends and colleagues. His life was spent divided between two hemispheres, coming from England to Australia to continue a career in ophthalmology in his late 30's. His life was enriched by his passions for his many interests apart from his chosen profession. Throughout it, he faced trials of personal tragedy, and will be remembered by those who knew him well as a man who walked a path of personal redemption with courage, showing the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.
After completing his Australian ophthalmic training at the Sydney Eye Hospital, Richard was admitted to the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists in 1992, and established private rooms in Miranda, Sydney, and five years later in Gulgong in regional NSW. He sub-specialised in medical retinal diseases, and also provided a service to Bathurst and Katoomba en route from the city to his country practice. He carried a prodigious work-load, and was even capable of servicing both country and city practices in the space of one day. He engendered great loyalty amongst his staff, who meticulously prepared his clinics for a high volume of fluorescein angiography, retinal laser treatments and later, intravitreal injections. He was also involved in the Aboriginal medical outreach program called Thubbo, which provided medical retinal services to the aboriginal community in Dubbo.
Richard gained a great reputation among his referrers for the breadth of his clinical knowledge and acumen, which was fuelled by a brilliant and enquiring mind and, from his earlier training, tutelage under such luminaries as Professor Alan Bird at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London. A true scholar, he had an enormously retentive memory for past papers and authors which could outreach most who tried to rival him. His store of obscure and bizarre articles, relating to a wide range of medical disciplines, made him always interesting, engaging and witty, and added to his reputation as an outrageous raconteur.
His other medical interests included hyperbaric medicine, from his time as a medical officer in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Reclaim. He undertook the arduous training in naval deep sea diving in the North Sea so that he could better understand the conditions encountered by the divers. He was also an aviation medical examiner and contributed his expertise to assist with formulation of the current visual standards for CASA.
Richard was involved in the College Foundation's Myanmar Eye Care Program, and made valuable contributions to the work of the clinic in diagnosing and treating conditions rarely encountered in Australia. His upbringing in post-WW II Central Africa, where his father worked as a government medical officer, gave him a first-hand experience in tropical diseases which proved a valuable asset for the medical team.
Many passions and interests competed for Richard's time, and several became interwoven. He was a keen photographer, and combined this interest with his medical retinal work. Prior to digital photography, Richard took and developed his own fluorescein angiograms, setting up a dark room in his home. He was the recipient of medical photography awards, and extended his passion to the outside world, winning awards and being published for his surfing photography at his beloved Cronulla beach. His artistic skills extended to sketching and painting.
Throughout his life he remained a true lover of music and singing, and he struggled to choose between a career in music and medicine after graduating from school at Malvern College, UK. He was a patron to up-and-coming young composers in Sydney, and commissioned one work shortly before his death which was played at his funeral.
Despite his many career successes, Richard's personal life could only be described as a struggle, for him and for his family. Yet in each of the battles he faced, Richard emerged a more humble, insightful and human person. Wanting to give back to the Australian medical community which had done so much to support him since his arrival from the UK in 1984, Richard gave his time as clinical lecturer to Sydney University medical students in alcohol and drug dependency. His vast knowledge of neurology, neuro-ophthalmology, biochemistry (he had completed a BSc in biochemistry) and his personal story of decline and finally of overcoming his own dependencies, made him unique in this field.
He will be missed greatly by many over a wide range of organisations. He was a senior Mason, gifted organist and bass singer, and was involved in the life of his local Parish church.
But it is on the more personal levels that Richard's character stood out. Whether it was mentoring young friends, and sponsoring them through school or higher education, giving time to helping sufferers of alcoholism through AA, or many other charitable acts, Richard accumulated, over his lifetime, a vast and disparate group of deeply loyal friends.
His last years were marked by an ongoing battle against cancer. With characteristic humour, he met his initial diagnosis with the words, "At last, a misfortune that I have not caused myself!" And he continued to surmount the challenges of his illness and treatment with a determination that eclipsed his earlier struggles. He is survived by his daughter Julia, newborn grandson Arthur, and sisters Penny and Daphne, as well as Brandt, to whom he was father-figure and mentor.
Dr Phillip Myers