RETIREMENT means renaissance, time to review one’s lifestyle, according to Rosscarbery’s Dr Dan Burke, who after more than 40 years in general practice, has retired.
When Dan turned 67 on May 5th, he celebrated both his retirement a few days earlier and his birthday with a holiday abroad – the first holiday in decades in which he had no need to consider future appointments.
‘My job was a very hands-on occupation in that I was meeting patients all the time. It was all about one-to-one interaction,’ he said, ‘and it was primarily appointment-driven.’
Dan believes empathy is ‘an essential component in any physician’s approach because it enhances and sustains the relationship between the doctor and the patient, and makes the person feel cared for.’
Dan, who is originally from Cork city, trained in UCC, just ‘over the wall’ from where he grew up.
‘It was,’ he said, ‘something of a family business because my father, Denis, was a doctor in the city and my two uncles – Daniel and James – were also doctors.’ As the only boy in a family of six, Dan said: ‘There was an expectation that I would do medicine. I had considered law but I am glad I chose the latter because I believe it is a privilege to be in a position to help and heal.
‘When I began working in West Cork it was a one-man show, a single practice, and it was 24/7, which meant I was on call all the time.’
After he finished his general training, Dan was appointed as a GP registrar in Dr John Gowen’s practice in Youghal. ‘I really enjoyed my time there. I discovered that I liked working in a country practice; and I liked the holistic approach to health that Dr Gowen instilled in me.’
In 1979, Dan – along with 26 others – applied for the position as a general practitioner in the General Medical Services (GMS) scheme in Rosscarbery, following the retirement of Dr Michael Hegarty, and was fortunate enough to secure the position.
By that stage, Dan was married to Judy Madden from Blackrock. Dan admits he spotted her in her first week, studying Arts at UCC, and was smitten.
Thankfully she, too, was keen to relocate to a rural setting and the couple were warmly welcomed when they arrived in Rosscarbery.
Locals gave them lots of help and advice and even helped in identifying their forever home at Burgatia, overlooking Rosscarbery Bay. ‘From day one,’ Dan said, ‘I was taken by Rosscarbery’s rather unique location – the beauty of its square, its ancient history, and local amenities, such as the schools and the Warren Beach – just one field removed from our home. ‘I also liked the open-mindedness of the people, the diversity of the local population, and their inclusivity. And that still holds true today.’
Dan’s practice at the Medical Centre was formerly the Southern Health Board’s centre. At that time, there was a medical card panel of less than 600 patients but the practice expanded quickly. And it’s still expanding today.
In 1982, Dan was also appointed as a trainer in general practice, and he continued to be involved in the training scheme for the next 23 years.
During that time, he was a mentor to 16 trainee doctors and, happily, the relationships he formed have endured to the present day.
His own practice continued to evolve when Dr June Anderson joined in 1986; followed by Dr Mairead Wilson in 1997; Dr Ivan Martin in 2007; and finally, the most recent appointment of Dr Emma Tobin. ‘This has enabled me to retire with a clear conscience, knowing that the patients will be well looked after.’
By every reckoning, the demands on the centre have expanded. Dan explained that patient consultation rates have continued to increase with the attendance for GMS patients averaging around six visits per year, with private patients averaging around three times a year.
‘There are new challenges in today’s society,’ he said, ‘namely obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and, in this regard, general practice is the first line of defence because there is an onus on GPs to educate people about the importance of good diet, weight loss, and exercise.’
Over the years, Dan has become involved in community projects, such as the Social Services Association, which provides a venue for group meetings, as well as being the base of operations for the town’s Meals on Wheels service.
Dan was also one of the founding members of Rosscarbery’s Social Housing Association, which has built 13 houses for the elderly in the community, and has plans to build nine more within the next 12 months.
Although there have been huge demands placed on his time and attention over the last 38 years, Dan always had his own interests and recreational outlets, such as golf, a real appreciation of the environment, and participation in the local Carbery Rangers GAA Club as their medical officer.
Dan and Judy have two children, Angela and Edward, and they are the proud grandparents of Freya and Isla, who love visiting Rosscarbery.
Dan and Judy are to be the guests of honour at a presentation dinner organised by the community, which will take place at the Celtic Ross Hotel at 8pm on Friday, June 30th.
After that? Dan smiles: ‘Liberation. Renaissance. Travel. And maybe an adult education programme in UCC in the autumn.’