OAM for Dr Peter Baquie

By Catherine Fooke

Southbank resident, senior Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre practitioner, and one-time South Gippsland GP Dr Peter Baquie may now add three more letters after his name after receiving the Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday 2021 Honours List.

“Dr Pete” OAM was granted the award on Monday, June 14, “for service to sports medicine”, according to his Australian Honours List citation.

“I feel humbled and very grateful,” Peter said.

“Especially to my wife, Helen, who has been holding everything together all this time.”

An old mate and fellow medical student sent a text message through to the new honouree early that Monday morning, just after the List was made public, which seemed to echo Peter’s own and clearly long-held point of view.

The text ran along the lines of, “to Peter John Baquie an OAM for service to sports medicine, and to Helen Baquie an OAM for services to the Baquie family, while Peter John Baquie is giving service to sports medicine.”

The seed for Peter’s illustrious career in sports medicine that has seen him doctoring the Kookaburras to men’s hockey gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and Hawthorn to AFL premiers in 2008, may well have been planted while he was a GP in Foster and Toora from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s.

Peter worked with and learned from the Corner Inlet district’s own medical legends, Dr Robert “Robbie” Fleming, and one-time Victoria Police Surgeon and road safety advocate Dr John Birrell, who was behind the introduction of compulsory car seatbelt and world-first 0.05 blood alcohol limit laws in this State.

As well as enjoying paddle-boarding on nearby inlet and ocean waterways with Helen, Peter also played cricket and football for Foster, actively contributing towards the winning of a few end-of-season flags.

And, in between the innings and the quarters, Peter was quite often asked to realign a nose or a finger, and to give his opinion on what to do about those injuries arising from more serious on-field incidents, even by the members of the opposing team!

The “Doc” wouldn’t hesitate to stop a match to attend to any player who was hurt, making sure they got the proper treatment straight away.

Nor did he ever have any qualms about abandoning play himself during a home game, sprinting in cricket whites or the Foster Tigers’ black and yellow to greet one of the hundreds of local babies he oversaw in gestation and then delightedly delivered at the South Gippsland Hospital, right next door to the oval in Foster.

Peter graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1976 with a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) before spending the next few years training in general practice, which included a period at the Foster and Toora Medical Centre.

He undertook further study in anaesthetics and obstetrics, two very handy skills to have as a doctor in a rural setting, before willingly returning to serve in Foster in 1983, and being admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (FRACGP) in 1984.

Peter and Helen, and their own four children, Michael, Jane, Laura, and Alice, were steadily woven into the rich tapestry of the Corner Inlet community, making lifelong friends and connections.

A Diploma of Occupational Medicine (DOccMed) was added to Peter’s qualifications in 1992 and, not long after, the Baquie family made the difficult decision to leave Foster and move back to Melbourne so the children could further their education.

After taking a sabbatical year, Peter soon found that being a city GP was rather different to working in a busy country practice where the doctors do a lot of their own hands-on doctoring as opposed to referring many patients on.

It was a chance conversation with friends from Foster, during which it was suggested that sports medicine might be more his thing, that led to Peter changing direction and becoming a practitioner at the Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre in 1994.

Word quickly got out across the South Gippsland sporting fraternity that Dr Pete was doing knees and ankles, and so, to his genuine pleasure, he was soon back for keeps among the players of the then-Alberton Football and Netball League, along with those from many other district sporting codes.

“There is a critically important need for rural medicine, and one of the things about living and working in a country town is that you join the community and you feel bad when you leave because you mightn’t get to see those people again,” he said.

“In my case, I’ve been lucky to have had the privilege of seeing kids I delivered and now their kids, too, when they come up to town with a gammy knee or a bad back. It’s actually been a pretty special part of my Melbourne practice, having this on-going bond with my patients from South Gippsland,” Peter said.

"Former Hawthorn footy player Jarryd Roughead of Leongatha mentions me in his book, Roughy, saying that I did actually bring some of his best mates into the world!"

Peter became a Fellow of the Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians (FASCEP) in 1996, and he is also a current professional member of Sports Medicine Australia.

The catalogue of Peter’s sports medicine postings is beyond impressive; it also sees him appointed as the Australian Men’s Olympic Hockey Team Doctor from 1997 to 2004, and as the Australian Olympic Teams Chief Medical Officer at Beijing in 2008, and London in 2012.

He served as team doctor to a number of Australian Football League clubs, including Carlton, Hawthorn, Collingwood and North Melbourne, for more than 20 years, as well as attending to the National Rugby League club Melbourne Storm during 2003.

The Baquies now have eight granddaughters in their family, and love where they have lived for well over a decade high up in their Southbank tower, “right in the middle of the places we like to go,” Peter said.

Peter celebrated his OAM with his family on the Queen’s Birthday holiday Monday, including his mother, and all four Baquie children, who were told to “come for lunch, no matter what!”

He received lots of congratulatory messages from friends, colleagues, and patients alike during the course of the day and since, and all agreed that the award was well-deserved by the unpretentious, softly-spoken, and absolutely competent Dr Pete •

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