Laughter with a side of medicine, a beloved Ballarat paediatrician spent Wednesday afternoon seeing his last patients before retiring.
Dr Harry Zehnwirth is hanging up the stethoscope after 45 years of serving families mostly in Ballarat.
He said he had mixed feelings about it all.
"They have been swirling around for the last few weeks, certain sadness and certain delight," Dr Zehnwirth said.
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He is finishing his career after specialising in allergy care, but also worked in hospitals, on call and with out-patients.
"It has been an honour and a privilege and I am just so lucky to have been doing this sort of work," Dr Zehnwirth said.
Like other moments along his career path, he said the decision to retire was quite spontaneous.
"There has been very little planning in the retirement," Dr Zehnwirth said.
"I know I would like to rest a lot, but there are no major plans.
"I am not a planner, I just do things."
Dr Zehnwirth said there had been many changes in the allergy area over the past two decades.
"Allergies were not a big deal in Australia until about 20 years ago," he said.
When Dr Zehnwirth came to Ballarat there were only two other paediatricians in town and there were no allergists. "We did not see much allergy at all," he said.
"There was no such thing as peanut anaphylaxis, we never saw that."
Laughter, entertainment and magic have been a huge part of my practice- Dr Harry Zehnwirth
Dr Zehnwirth said one of his nursing staff suggested that he should take up some allergy work and offer skin prick testing.
"Allergies became more common in Australia and in the world and I said 'all right, let's give it a go'.
"Sure enough, it exploded in Australia and we became the allergy capital of the world."
Dr Zehnwirth's practice continued to grow as the Royal Children's Hospital was unable to keep up with the amount of patients needing to be seen for allergy help.
He said many changes had been made in this area over the past 20 years.
"Certainly a lot of education in association with the use of EpiPens and how to manage anaphylaxis."
Dr Zehnwirth said Ballarat Allergy Clinic had been trying to find more paediatric allergists to join for years.
"The number of allergens that are being produced in the tertiary centres is not enough to fill the demand," he said.
Dr Zehnwirth is known for his bedside manner and said it was important that children felt welcome and comfortable in his clinic.
"Laughter, entertainment and magic have been a huge part of my practice," he said.
"I do a lot of magic tricks, at least two or three for every child over the age of two.
"It is something that can be a distraction and it can be something that creates rapport in the clinic and creates laughter.
"Making children happy is a big part of it.
"It is not just saving lives, it is about making children well and making them healthy.
"That is a big part of paediatrics for me."
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