It’s hard to imagine Bill McCarthy retiring. That’s never been part of his character. Whether it was a rocket to an inadequate surgeon at St Elsewhere’s, a campaign to save Sydney Hospital or a demonstration against the iniquity of a third runway dumping kerosene on his beloved Glebe, you never had any difficulty knowing where Bill McCarthy stood. I’m sure that side of Bill’s nature will never change.
I first met Bill in the mid 1970s in the correspondence columns of the National Times, when the editor thought to forward to me for comment a diatribe Bill had penned in response to something – fairly innocuous I’d thought – that I had written on the subject of melanoma immunotherapy. I think it was the temerity of a Mexican (well Melburnian) venturing an opinion on anything to do with melanoma that had raised Bill’s ire. I felt obliged to respond, but offered the editor the option of publishing neither letter. Luckily he agreed. When I later came to work in Sydney (in mid 1978), it took all of 30 milliseconds to decide whether to work with the Sydney Melanoma Unit or set up in competition with it. I have enjoyed my membership of SMU and a warm (OK – occasionally heated) friendship with Bill McCarthy for over a quarter century.
Bill’s tenure as Director of SMU built on the tremendous foundation established by Gerry Milton. Bill set about establishing a sound financial basis for the expanding activity of the unit by establishing the Melanoma Foundation, with activities as diverse as celebrity balls and rustic cricket matches. Internationally, he was active in the WHO Melanoma Group and successfully organised the Fourth World Melanoma Conference in Sydney in June 1997. He was passionate about recruitment and collaboration, establishing both the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Research Institute and a national network of melanoma clinicians. Within the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia Bill chaired the Melanoma and Skin Group, then served as President. Since passing the baton of SMU leadership to John Thompson, Bill has continued to provide a valuable clinical service both at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the clinic he established at Nowra.
Bill was an expert in medical education, as described by Ann Sefton elsewhere in this issue. His enormous contributions in so many fields stand as a legacy as he completes the professional phase of his distinguished career. Those of us who have also been fortunate to know Bill in gumboots chasing cattle around his farm know that he will not be idle in retirement.