Cardiothoracic surgeon honours teacher

“It is critical that the School moves to provide an outstanding environment in which to teach Science and Technology,” says Professor Julian Smith.

Like his father and grandfather before him, Professor Julian Smith pursued a career in medicine. Yet, curiously, it was a Chemistry teacher and not his father or grandfather who inspired him to become a surgeon. That man was the late Graham Withers, teacher, House Master, Deputy Headmaster, Acting Headmaster, and a legend at Melbourne Grammar School.

“Quite a large number of my colleagues in 1975 chose medicine as their career and this choice was in no small way due to the instruction we received from Graham Withers in Chemistry, but also from the other teachers that were in the School’s Science area at the time,” recalls Julian.

He modestly insists he was not the smartest boy in the year level but he has certainly exploited his full potential, just as Graham Withers always urged his students to do. Julian is Head of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Monash Health, Head of Monash University’s Department of Surgery, and Deputy Head of the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health.

He has never forgotten his scholarly roots and, as a way of giving thanks, he has made a generous donation to the Graham Withers Initiative. Part of the New World of Teaching and Learning Campaign, the Initiative aims to raise funds for a suite of laboratories to be named in honour of Graham Withers in the Geoff Handbury Science and Technology Hub.

Given that careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) will occupy up to 75 percent of the employment opportunities in the next decade, Julian believes that an institution like Melbourne Grammar School needs to be “acutely positioned” to provide the highest quality STEM education.

“The existing facilities are many decades old and it is critical that the School moves to provide an outstanding environment in which to teach Science and Technology,” he says.  

Julian credits many of the attributes he brings to the teaching and leadership aspects of his working life to those he learnt at Melbourne Grammar School. He was both a House Captain and School Prefect in 1975.

The Smith family ties to the School span four generations. Julian’s father, Dr Hubert Smith, completed his schooling here in 1930, and his son, Fraser, is currently a Year 11 student. Julian also has great nieces and great nephews attending the School. 

More than 40 years have passed since Julian’s days at Melbourne Grammar School, but he is still guided by the example set by Graham Withers.  “He set an outstanding example of leadership and integrity and was a complete role model for the students.”