Himmelhoch, Albert

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Albert Himmelhoch was a visionary pioneer of General Practice training in Australia, responsible for the establishment of the first training unit for General Practice in this country in 1973. He was also one of the inaugural Lecturers in the newly established Department of Community Medicine at the University of Sydney in 1976. After graduating, Albert worked in various positions in Sydney and the United Kingdom before entering general practice in Gordon, NSW in 1955.

During the late 1960s, Albert recognised the need for medical undergraduates and graduates to be educated in the skills required for General Practice, rather than the then accepted maxim of “learning by trial and error”. In 1971, Albert made a submission to the then New South Wales Minister for Health, Arthur Jago, regarding the development of a General Practice training program. As a result of his initiative, the Hornsby General Practice Unit was established in association with Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital in 1973.

Being a keen advocate for the inclusion of General Practice training in the undergraduate medical curriculum at the University of Sydney, Albert developed a “training practice” for new medical graduates (“general practice trainees”). He incorporated many of the educational concepts that he had encountered during his travels to the United States, and encouraged medical students to spend time in the practice.

Albert was known for taking an intense personal interest in medical students and medical graduates. He is reported to have invited them to his home and spent many hours talking to them about their personal and professional development. His care and concern for the development of these doctors continued as they progressed into their professional lives, and he is still regarded with great fondness by many GPs around the State.

From 1976 until 1990, Albert was a member of the University of Sydney Coppleson Postgraduate Committee in Medicine, and through this committee promoted and developed postgraduate education for General Practitioners, in association with the Faculty of Medicine.

During the 1980s, he worked as Director of Medical Services at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital, and continued to actively promote training for medical undergraduates, resident medical officers and general practice vocational trainees. In 1998, the new Clinical Education Centre at Hornsby Hospital was named in honour of Albert and his work. Albert’s lasting contribution to the University of Sydney was recognised by the award of Honorary Membership of the Faculty of Medicine in 1999. He was also a member of the Education Committee of the New South Wales Faculty of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, through which he worked in a voluntary capacity on developing new models for General Practice education.[1]

Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Himmelhoch, Albert. Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive, University of Sydney.

An alternate version appears in: Mellor, L. 150 Years, 150 Firsts: The People of the Faculty of Medicine (2006) Sydney, Sydney University Press.