Phoebus Perdikis: (1 July 1933-3 June 2011).
Article Type: Obituary
Subject: Surgeons (Biography)
Health care industry (Officials and employees)
Authors: Bremner, C.G.
Hinder, R.A.
Perdikis, G.
Pub Date: 08/01/2011
Publication: Name: South African Journal of Surgery Publisher: South African Medical Association Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 South African Medical Association ISSN: 0038-2361
Issue: Date: August, 2011 Source Volume: 49 Source Issue: 3
Topic: Event Code: 540 Executive changes & profiles Computer Subject: Health care industry
Persons: Biographee: Perdikis, Phoebus
Accession Number: 268310804

Phoebus Perdikis ('Fifi') died of a major stroke on 3 June 2011. With his passing we lost not only one of the remaining giants of the 'golden age' when general surgery began to be firmly established as a specialty in South Africa, but also a colleague and for many a dear friend.

Phoebus qualified M.B. B.Ch. at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1957 and after his housemanship proceeded to the UK, as was the custom at that time, to obtain the F.R.C.S. He worked at Orpington Hospital as a registrar, and was so respected that the Chief of Surgery wanted him to stay.

He returned to South Africa in 1969 and worked at Baragwanath Hospital and Johannesburg General Hospital. Although he was an academic at heart, he went into private practice at the request of the Greek community in Johannesburg. Subsequently a dedicated part-time surgeon attached to the Department of Surgery at Wits, he became one of South Africa's most well-known and esteemed surgeons. He worked until the time of his death and never took retirement. Always a loyal supporter of the Department of Surgery, he generated substantial research funds from his association with the Freemasons and participated unfailingly in weekly meetings and ward rounds. His teaching sessions were inspirational and he was a regular examiner in surgery at the annual final M.B. B.Ch. examinations. Before paediatric surgery became a separate specialty in South Africa he also participated in the surgical care of children at the Children's Hospital in Johannesburg. This was typical of his wide-ranging interests.

In 1991 Phoebus arranged and directed the first laparoscopic surgical course in Johannesburg and encouraged the participation of academic surgeons and the attendance of sceptics. Later he was a founding member and president of the South African Society for Endoscopic Surgeons. He was an office holder of the Association of Surgeons of South Africa and was unbiased in his support of both 'town' and 'gown' in their deliberations.

Phoebus had an enquiring mind, some of his interests, including the medical acute abdomen and paralytic ileus, leading to articles in American publications. Recently he wrote a review on AIDS and the acute abdomen.

At work he displayed complete dedication, honesty and respect, his compassion for his patients earning him a special reputation. Many of them became lifelong friends. His wife Ine and his daughter Richardine assisted him in his rooms. It was a happy family practice where patients received a warm welcome, frequently with the offer of refreshment. His motive for being in private practice was to serve his patients. This is exemplified by his very first patient encounter in his rooms, after which the patient baffled him by insisting on making immediate payment. Phoebus recounted that he excused himself from the room to ask for advice from Ine, his nurse/office manager, who had also never considered the finances of practice. Together they came up with a nominal sum. When the patient was handed the bill he shook his head in disbelief and wrote a cheque for double the amount! Fifi later said that he immediately ran all the way to the bank to deposit it. He was a great raconteur, often telling self-deprecatory stories such as when, in an empathetic attempt to communicate with an Afrikaans-speaking lady with haemorrhoids, he explained to her in his best taal that she had 'verskriklike aarbei'!

Phoebus and Ine were generous in opening their home to others, entertaining the examiners in surgery each year. Those special evenings became a tradition of fun and friendship. They also grandly entertained visiting surgeons from overseas. Years later we would hear from prominent surgeons around the world just how much they had enjoyed the hospitality in the Perdikis home.

Phoebus was a meticulous person and thorough in whatever he did. A real renaissance man, his extracurricular interests included philately, birding and architecture. He wrote an illustrated book on the forgeries of British stamps which is a definitive work and will be published in the UK, and his idea of colour-coding bird books has been adopted in Australia, the UK and the USA. He designed his own home, 'Aynsford', which was subsequently built by his father-in-law. In the late 1950s he played professional soccer for the Corinthians team, and his enthusiasm for sport continued throughout his life.

He loved his family, his grandchildren having a special place in his heart. The dolls' house he built for his granddaughters with specially imported items illustrates his ingenuity and thoroughness. His son Galen has followed his father's example and is a plastic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

Phoebus touched many lives, made many friends, frequently gave advice and assistance to colleagues and was a true surgeon's surgeon. Those close to him were privileged to have known such a person. He leaves Ine, his devoted wife of 49 years, his children Galen and Richardine, and his grandchildren Luke, Tatiana, Blake and Sasha. He will be sorely missed by us all.
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