A group of six Australians of Greek heritage were recently recognised in the 2022 Australia Day Honours list.
Among the recipients was Dr Peter Gianoutsos, 82, from NSW who received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to medicine as a respiratory physician.
Mr Gianoutsos has been an Emeritus Consultant Physician at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital since 2014 and has also held a number of other roles at the Hospital.
During his career that spans more than five decades he has been involved with the Australian Respiratory Council; the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
He is also a founding member of the Australian Lung Foundation, and has been a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Sydney since 2006.
“I am very flattered to think that a group of people felt that they wanted to recognise the contribution that I have made. I had many, many tasks and participated in various activities over the years,” Mr Gianoutsos said.
Asked about the highlight of his multifaceted work he says teaching young doctors is what he enjoyed the most.
“I was very keen on teaching medicine -and particularly respiratory medicine, to the younger doctors that were coming through the system. I found this was a very satisfying thing to do. I’ve never resigned on that in spite of the fact that I’ve been out of medicine now for some time.
“I used to do a lot of teaching for those who were preparing for their specialist examinations.
“I would take them through cases and respond to their questions in depth and breadth, so that by the time they were going to take themselves to the exam, that they were well versed in what they needed to know. I had a great amount of pleasure in doing that.”
Born in Wellington in the late 1930s to a Greek immigrant father from the island of Kastos and a New Zealander mother, Mr Gianoutsos was drawn to medicine as a result of childhood memories.
“When I was going through high school, my younger sister suffered from asthma. In those days, there were a lot of cranks who were providing asthma therapy, and it was all a bit crazy.
“My mother found a tendency to take my sister, who was seven years my junior, to these crazy people. I thought there’s got to be better ways of dealing with this and that was the genesis that made me want to do medicine and to ultimately become a respiratory specialist,” he said.
Mr Gianoutsos has fond memories of his upbringing in the Rose Milk Bar his father owned until 1957 and his Greek school days.
“There was a marvelous man who I was very fond of, Father Elias Economou, one of the first Greek priests to come to New Zealand, who was a wealth of knowledge.”
Later on, Father Economou went to Sydney where he founded St Spyridon Greek Orthodox Parish.
In January 1970 Mr Gianoutsos who was studying at Otago University also relocated to Sydney after he was offered a job at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital as a clinical superintendent.
He has lived there ever since but visits Kastos, the Greek island where his father comes from with a population of 80, every year.
“I’ve been to Greece many times. I first went as a little boy in 1950, and then again in 1974.
“I ultimately had myself built a small cottage on the island. Unfortunately, the last two years I have not been able to go but I normally go there for three months each year.”