Local surgeon gets a special honour
Order of Australia recipient left a legacy in the region
THE first time Dr Allan Cook attended surgery he passed out, prompting screams from his superior.
Now, with more than 6000 surgeries under his belt, the doctor of more than five decades has been awarded a coveted Order of Australia honour.
The Queen’s Birthday honour was awarded to Dr Cook for his service to medicine as an orthopaedic surgeon.
Dr Cook worked as an orthopaedic surgeon in Mackay Base Hospital for 33 years but now runs a consultancy practice in Airlie Beach with his wife, Pam.
He’s also worked with the now-defunct Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, as a surgeon in the United Kingdom, at Mater Private Hospital, Pioneer Valley Private Hospital and as a government medical officer, among other roles.
Despite his tireless work and contribution to the community, the 79-year-old described the day the OAM letter landed in his mailbox as “surreal”.
In fact, he and Mrs Cook are still carrying the letter around as a reminder of the unexpected honour.
“I thought it may have been addressed to the wrong person,” Dr Cook laughed.
Referring to where it all started, Dr Cook said he was inexplicably drawn to medicine, despite his father’s insistence he take up engineering or surveying.
“I did my secondary schooling at Rockhampton Grammar School and across from there is Rockhampton Base Hospital,” he said.
“I just think I started looking at in a different light, seeing it for the first time and thinking ‘medicine sort of appeals’.
“I guess it all worked out quite well.”
While that is certainly so, Dr Cook conceded the first test in his training didn’t go to plan.
“The first operation I ever went to as a student I passed out on the floor,” he said.
“I think this is a common thing. And all I can remember is the surgeon yelling out at what sounded like the top of his lungs ‘fall backward, fall backward’ so I missed the patient.”
However working as the only orthopaedic surgeon in Mackay later in his career, Dr Cook took to the role with gusto.
“You become psychologically able to cope
❝operation The first I ever went to as a student I passed out on the floor. — Allan Cook
with all sorts of things and deal with them, no matter how confronting,” he said.
One of Dr Cook’s most memorable experiences was patching up Proserpine local Alf Casey, who was attacked by his pet estuarine crocodile, Charlene (or Charlie), in the late 1980s.
“One day he was feeding her and she latched on to his arm and did the death roll and wound off all the flesh and his hand,” he said.
“I was at a Rotarian barbecue down at the beach. I got this phone call to say I was needed at the hospital.
“I asked what the problem was and they told me the crocodile bit his hand off. My friends said, ‘Cookie, you’ve got to be bulls**ting.’
“We managed to salvage the arm from the elbow up.”
Dr Cook, who ceased surgery in 2007, said his favourite part of the job was helping patients get back on their feet after crippling injuries.
“It’s amazing how some people bounce back, recover from injuries and keep such a positive attitude. And I think that is half the battle in recovery, a positive outlook,” he said.
Dr Cook believes the marks of a good surgeon include attention to detail, compassion, communication and an optimistic attitude.
Mrs Cook said she was “so proud she could burst” and that “the OAM couldn’t go to a more deserving, wonderful person”.
BUSY: Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Allan Cook has been awarded an OAM for his services to medicine.