Feature

Those were the days

Published on 9 November 2020

Alumnus, David Smith, shares what it was like to study Medicine at Dundee in the 1960s and how it led him to the other side of the world

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David and Gail smiling and putting their heads together

Those were the days. The days before Ninewells Hospital was no more than a dream, before the Tower Building was built and even before the Tay Road Bridge appeared. The days when Dines was the Union building with a student bar in the basement.

How I remember all the different places I stayed during my time in Dundee. The walk along the Perth Road from my tenement block to my lectures, well wrapped in a duffle coat on cold sunny mornings with the sharp easterly wind in my face.  The time I spent in Belmont Hall, certainly a welcome change from the tenement. It was a change too from my draughty flat at the top of Morgan Tower which was above and behind the pharmacy on Nethergate.

For many of us studying Medicine in the 1960s our clinics were in the old Dundee Royal Infirmary (DRI) which was half way up Dundee Law. Back then the buses were so wild in that it was far safer to walk to those clinics. Our Professor of Bacteriology, William John Tulloch, taught as though he had been best friends with Pasteur, Koch and the other greats of history. Modes of transmission and the postulates of Koch still ring in my mind and it was a sad day when Professor Tulloch left.

After graduating from University, I spent a few years moving from department to department in Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham as well as having a house job at DRI. I then went on to do a traineeship and 10 years General Practice in Runcorn. I took a year off to study manipulative medicine in London, spent another 15 years in Birmingham as a medical osteopath in the daytime and deputising doctor at night. I then followed my future daughter-in-law to New Zealand where I worked as a GP before a head injury in 2016 led me to retire at the age of 75.

With my partner Gail, I live in a great retirement lifestyle village in picturesque New Zealand where lots goes on, snooker, MahJong, trips out, lakeside strolls with wooded hill walks. We have family across the world, including here in NZ, in the UK and in Vietnam and we keep in touch over Skype. Now I spend my days collecting papers on the pandemic that I send to those who protect and prepare us here in New Zealand, with weekly e-mail updates. 

david smith
“Would I do it all again?  Yes. Probably. The journey has been hard but rewarding in every sense, though perhaps I should have paid more attention to money on the way. I have helped a lot of people, steered a difficult course, let some down, and met so many wonderful people on the way, people whom I shall never forget - friends, relatives, teachers, partners, neighbours. ”

David Smith,

“Don’t become a doctor unless there is nothing else in life you want to do.” That was the feeling I had, and it has never left me. Thank you to everyone, and thank you Dundee for making all this possible. It is not over yet.

If you would like to receive weekly medical updates about Covid 19 from David, please send an email to david@davidandgail.co.nz  with “Subscribe” in the subject line.

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