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Urologist retires after 52 years in medicine

Bowing out: retiring urologist Charles Dyer with medical instruments he used in the 1970s. (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Whether at a party or the grocery store, people have no hesitation in sharing their most intimate problems with Charles Dyer.

Urinary tract infections, incontinence, prostate trouble — the questions are the trappings of the 77-year-old’s profession.

“Of course, they always say they have a friend who has an issue when they mean themselves,” laughed the urologist, who retires this month after 52 years in medicine.

He’ll most miss the people.

“Over the years I’ve probably seen thousands of clients. In medicine, you have to be a people person, especially in something like urology or gynaecology. You’re dealing with things that are sometimes so personal, about a part of the body that is only visible in private.”

There are now two others but, until 2014, he was the only urologist on the island. He’d get at least one call from the hospital every night.

“I usually didn’t have to go in, just give advice to the hospital staff on how to handle a particular case,” he said.

Dr Dyer grew up in Pembroke, the third of seven children.

His father Leslie was an electrical contractor. His seamstress mother, Kathlyn, died last year, just a few days short of her 102nd birthday.

Both parents emphasised learning and reading, and they worked hard to make sure their children were well educated.

“I was always interested in science and didn’t really want to go into the arts,” Dr Dyer said.

“My eldest brother, Edward, did general nursing in Exeter and then went into mental health nursing. He eventually became Commissioner of Police. My younger brother, David, became a dentist. I decided I’d rather go into medicine than dentistry.”

He enrolled in St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in Bristol, England, travelling there from Bermuda in 1957 on a banana boat.

His cabin porthole was at water level.

“When we crossed into the Bay of Biscay, which is always rough, I was sleeping underwater,” he said.

Arriving in Plymouth was a bit of a shock. The Bermuda temperature was in the mid-80s; in England it was 55F, and raining constantly.

“That was 12 years after the war ended so there were still a lot of bomb sites,” he said.

“There was still some rationing going on. The cost of living was quite cheap. A newspaper was a penny, and people could buy a single cigarette for a penny — not that I ever smoked.”

In Bristol, he lived at the Young Men’s Christian Association.

“Accommodations were pretty basic,” he said.

“I had a single room and there was a communal shower down the hall. Rent was £50 a month. I lived there for three years, and it was actually fun. There were six other people there from other countries and we got to be friends. There was also a pool room with several pool tables.”

He qualified as a doctor in 1966 and, after a year as an intern, he went into general surgery.

He met his wife, Sandy, while working at Hillingdon Hospital in Middlesex.

“I was treating an elderly patient who had burns to his shins,” Dr Dyer said.

“She was a nurse, and all I saw at first were her eyes over the mask.”

They were married on July 1, 1972 in Chelsea, London.

For five years the couple lived and worked in Yorkshire, and had two children there, Alison and Jean-Paul.

Meanwhile, Dr Dyer was still a little undecided about his career path.

“I thought about paediatrics because I liked children,” he said.

“I also thought about urology because I would still see a lot of kids, but would also work with adults.”

A urologist friend helped sway his opinion.

“I never really had any intention of returning to Bermuda,” he said.

“But in 1978 the same friend suggested I come back to Bermuda. At the time, Bermuda didn’t have a urologist and a doctor was visiting the island every three months.

“In my life, I’m most proud to have helped people. You can’t help people completely all the time, but you can be there as a resource for them.”

In February, he started the process of winding down his practice at the Ridings on Point Finger Road. Urologist Mike Czerwinski will take over the business.

As for his immediate plans, Dr Dyer is thinking of getting an online degree.

“I’m thinking maybe medical law,” he said.

“I wouldn’t practise it, it would just be something interesting to do.

“When I tell people I’m thinking of going back to school at my age, they think I’m crazy. I might also look at something in the arts. I’ve always liked writing. I’m also interested in airbrushing. It’s important to keep your mind active.”

The Royal Gazette profiles senior citizens in the community every Tuesday in Lifestyle. To suggest an outstanding senior contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com. Have on hand the senior’s full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them.