WOMEN’S boxing in the 2012 London Olympics has been a controversial issue recently, and meeting Australian Medical Association (AMA) vice-president Dr Steve Hambleton in a Brisbane parish last month I couldn’t help but ask the question.
“What would you do if your daughter wanted to train for the Olympics as a boxer?” I said, adding, “What if it was their life-long dream?”
The response was honest, candid, obvious.
“I am glad you asked,” he said.
“Training for the Olympics is to attempt the highest honour a sportsperson can achieve.
“It should be in an activity that displays determination, endurance, balance, poise, teamwork, strength and courage.
“It should not be for the ability to inflict damage on your opponent. “I don’t think it would ever be one my children’s life-long dreams …”
When The Catholic Leader visited his home parish of St Johns Wood-The Gap last month, Steve was among regular worshippers and family, speaking glowingly of the faith community.
“I went to school at the Mater Dei Convent which was run by the Sisters of Charity,” he said.
“My Grade One teacher was Sr Cabrini who went on to become the provincial of the order.
“I can still recall lessons from the catechism and writing AMDG (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, Latin for ‘for the greater glory of God’) on the top of my exercise book pages.”
Steve went on to attend St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace and then the University of Queensland while his children have also attended Mater Dei.
“We broke the mould for the boys when I sent my son John to Marist College Ashgrove, but my daughters Elizabeth, Emma and Eleanor will all attend the same school as their aunts.”
That “same school” is Mt St Michael’s College, Ashgrove.
Heavily influenced by his parents, Steve also has strong family ties.
“My mother, Joy … is a gentle woman with a certain serenity who somehow has retained her sanity raising five children,” he said.
“My father, Ron, who hardly missed a day’s morning Mass when we were children, has lived his faith life quietly, giving something back through the St Vincent de Paul Society and several visits to Atape in New Guinea after the tsunami and to Timor and Kiribati in the Pacific to set up dental surgeries that he had arranged to be fully equipped and delivered.
“On another trip to India to offer dental services to disabled children, the malaria tablets nearly killed him but it wasn’t his time and he made it home.
“Somehow I have some of Dad’s determination mixed with the calm of my mother.”
A GP who has been at the same practice for more than two decades, Steve said his patients were patient with him.
“I start work at the surgery at 8am and am constantly interrupted by phone calls emails and sometimes interviews (related to his AMA role),” he said. “My long suffering patients somehow put up with me.
“At least once a week I am in another state and last week it was two other states,” adding jokingly, “It’s not right for a GP to be a Platinum Frequent Flyer.”
Certain of the call to medicine, caring for others has been Steve’s life in what he describes as “a vocation more than a job”.
“I have shared in the lives of many of my patients,” he said.
“I have helped young couples through their pregnancies and looked after their tiny children. I have seen them grow up and now become young adults.
“I have looked after failing parents and seen dementia rob people of their independence.
“I have discovered cancers and seen success stories but I have also seen my patients slip away and I have hopefully eased their passing.
“This is the privilege of general practice.”
Appointed just this year to the role in the AMA, Steve’s dedication to his vocation is constantly challenged.
“Our health system has been chronically under-funded for years,” he said.
“We have not trained enough of our own men and women to take up the responsibility of medical care for our community.
“If we are to maintain our high standards we need to guide government decisions to ensure the future of healthcare is secure.
“I am happy to be there to make sure that we preserve what is good about our health system and fix what is not – after all, I might need it myself one day.”
Asked what are the strengths of the medical profession, Steve didn’t hesitate.
“The core strength of our health system is our general practice-based primary care system,” he said.
“We are the gate openers for our patients and can help steer them through the health maze.”
Agreeing that more practising Catholics are required in high-profile roles such as his, Steve continues to live his vocation of “change for the better”.
“I am in a position of influence and I can offer my point of view,” he said.
“If you don’t stand up to be counted you guarantee that there is less opposition to ideas that are opposite to your own.”
Standing up for his faith at every opportunity, on-going Mass attendance commences his week.
“I try never to miss Sunday Mass,” Steve said. “It gives me some quiet time to remember why we are here.
“I am proud to be there with my children and my parents and to be part of our faith community.”