20-1-1971 — 21-6-2014
Dr Paul Robert Antonis, an interventional cardiologist who built an international reputation and helped to shape the careers of many young doctors, has died in Melbourne aged 43.
Paul graduated with honours from Monash University Medical School in 1994 and the following year began a much-lauded 19-year association with Monash Health, particularly at Monash Medical Centre, Clayton and related hospitals. After the obligatory internship and junior resident years, it became obvious Paul was headed for physician training.
Following a stellar year as a general medical registrar in 1998 characterised by exemplary care, leadership, control and commitment, Paul began training in renal medicine, where he would meet his wife-to-be, Dr Michelle Watts.
But his heart wasn't in renal medicine so Paul pursued his real passion, cardiology. His first cardiology training was at Box Hill Hospital in 2000 as there were no training positions at Monash that year. He returned as the chief resident and an advanced trainee in cardiology in 2001. Paul was an outstanding clinician and in 2002 qualified as a cardiologist, being admitted to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
2003, Paul began training as an interventional cardiologist and, with natural manual dexterity and the ability to make rapid, clear decisions, it was evident he was made for the subspecialty. Paul was among the most naturally gifted of trainees.
Paul was appointed as a consultant cardiologist with MonashHeart in 2005, and his leadership, dedication and communication skills saw him quickly promoted to head of acute cardiac services, MonashHeart in 2007. Under Paul's leadership, the acute cardiac care units at Monash Medical Centre and Dandenong Hospital developed into one seamless unit. Paul worked tirelessly side by side with his colleagues to create MonashHeart, now Victoria's largest cardiology service provider, with an enviable reputation nationally and internationally.
Part of Paul's role was to nurture and train the advanced cardiology trainees, which he did with enthusiasm and energy. He was a beloved mentor to many of them and over the years helped shaped the careers of countless aspiring young doctors.
In 2008 Paul joined the MonashHeart/CVCTA cardiac CT teaching faculty, teaching the art and science of cardiac CT imaging at all 14 subsequent level-A courses to hundreds of cardiologists and radiologists from Australia and New Zealand.
Paul excelled in complex interventional procedures and went on to be skilled and talented in every aspect of the subspecialty. He was one of the first Australian cardiologists to achieve accreditation to deploy all three types of transcatheter heart valves. He developed an enviable national and international reputation over the past nine years.
Last year, with global recognition as an international proctor for transcatheter heart valve procedures, he trained many of Europe's leading physicians.
As a valued member of the Monash Cardiovascular Research Centre Paul was involved in numerous international interventional cardiology trials, including world first-in-human trials.
Paul was to me, as he was to many of his colleagues and patients, a uniquely empathetic and supportive friend with many endearing qualities. It is often said "the only way to have friends is to be one" and Paul was one of the best. He was a remarkably generous, thoughtful person with a truly great, if not outrageous, sense of humour. His many qualities which we all loved and admired will be greatly missed.
First, loyalty: his devotion and loyalty to his family - his wife Michelle and his beautiful children Thomas and Madeleine - was unequivocal, unwavering and unlimited. His loyalty to friends and work colleagues was equally so.
Second, laughter: there was simply no one better to have side-splitting, face-aching, breathless weeping laughter with than Paul. His piercing accurate and quick wit, rapid retorts and sheer love of the outrageous wisecrack and practical joke always made many people's day.
Third, larger than life: an enigmatic and at times flamboyant man, Paul was a wonderful mixture of patience and impatience, supreme confidence yet gentle sensitivity and vulnerability, hubris but striking humility and provocateur but talented peace-maker. He was a larger than life, fanatical Collingwood football supporter and a larger than life, born-again rock star, Khe Sanh being his favourite song.
Finally, his legacy: it is only in darkness that we appreciate how bright and glorious the stars really are.
Paul will be remembered for love of his family as a caring, devoted and doting father, as a truly gifted, compassionate and caring cardiologist and as a kind, loyal, tolerant and great-humoured friend. He will never be far from our thoughts.
Professor Ian T. Meredith AM is director of MonashHeart