Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Institute of Academic Surgery

The mentors of our RPA academic surgeons

Prof Paul Bannon

Who was your mentor(s)?

I have had 2 significant mentors during my career. From a clinical perspective it was Duncan Thomson and from an academic perspective it was Doug Baird.

Where and when did you first meet them?

When I was an Intern at St Vincent's Hospital, I was required at short notice to cover another Intern working in Cardiothoracic who was struggling with the workload. I did well during that time and was subsequently recommended to Doug Baird who was the Head of Cardiothoracic at RPA. I never really left Cardiothoracic after that. From the very beginning, Doug recognised the potential in me and strongly supported my interest in research.

He understood I would not have been satisfied just doing surgery and that I also wanted to develop skills in research. Although he wasn't a researcher himself, he knew what research would benefit our department and arranged so many aspects of my academic development including my research supervisors. In parallel with Doug's support, I also had a clinical mentor in Duncan Thomson. Although they had very different styles, they worked together to guide and support my career.

Why did they have such a big influence on your career?

Together Doug and Duncan orchestrated every step of my career and I had great trust in their advice and what they felt was the right direction for me to take. I was very fortunate to benefit from their different styles and we were also able to strike the right balance between clinical and academic pursuits.

What were the characteristics that made them a good mentor for you?

Both Doug and Duncan were incredibly accessible and always gave me a lot of their time, which I was grateful for. They were genuinely supportive of my career development and facilitated so many things to help me along the way. I think they also saw the value in mentoring me and that it would benefit our department in the long run. They were also just great people to learn from.

How long did the mentoring relationship last?

It has never ended and is still going. Although Doug passed away, we established The Baird Institute which I am Chairman of and I am in regular contact with Duncan. I still call him for advice actually, even though he tells me I should know the answer!