Vale — The Merry Medic
Every now and then, a human being emerges who makes an extraordinary mark on society. On November 27th 2022, one of those extraordinary human beings passed away a few days before his 95th birthday. In my opinion, this man was one of the greatest Australians of the modern era.
I am referring to the extraordinary Dr James Wright, a.k.a. John Knight. John was born on 12 December 1927 and, following a stint as a general practitioner in the country, moved back to Epping, a middle class suburb of Sydney and commenced general practice on a busy suburban road in this suburb.
In 1954 he married the love of his life Noreen whilst he was a general practitioner in Tottenham, a small town in western New South Wales.
James had already written numerous articles, at that time, for the ABC but his life transitioned to another dimension in 1970 when he started writing for a very popular Sydney newspaper known as “The Sun”. The column he wrote was known as Dr Know.
In 1971, John & Doreen created the Medi-Aid Centre Foundation which since has housed thousands of people. Without Dr James Wright’s extraordinary vision, unbelievable selflessness and generosity along with tireless work, so many people would not have the accommodation they enjoy today through this charity. The Foundation provides subsidised housing for older people who could not afford accommodation.
In the 1970s, Dr Wright began working on the Mike Walsh show which then morphed into Midday with Ray Martin and then with Kerri-Anne Kennerley until his television work came to an end in 1999. His infectious laugh and smile along with his quirky voice became his trademark both on television and on radio.
In 1986 he began working at 2UE and continued his superb radio show in various guises until 2005. After leaving radio, he continued to write regularly and record podcasts well into his 90s. John was awarded the Order of Australia in 1998 & the NSW Senior Australian of the Year in 2017. 2012 was not a great year for Dr Wright when he developed throat cancer and even more tragically, his lovely wife Noreen passed on.
Soon after Dr Wright left 2UE, I took over as 2UE’s resident doctor and have had my own show, Healthy Living since that time. Since the demise of 2UE, I have moved to 2GB where I now have a national show on a Sunday night. If it wasn’t for Dr James Wright, media medicos would not be in the position we are today. James was certainly one of my major mentors in my medical media career. I had the honour of being one of the speakers at James’ 90th birthday celebration. I also interviewed James on Healthy Living when he published his autobiography, “Adventures of a Merry Medic” in 2016 (one of over 30 books he has written). I will always be in debt to this wonderful man, not just at a personal level, but for what he has done, totally selflessly, for this country.
Dr James Wright changed the face of medicine in Australia. Before he came along, doctors were seen as almost Godlike and not to be questioned. James taught the public that they have a right to ask questions and to expect sensible, practical answers. He certainly had given these sensible, practical answers in his various roles as a GP, writer & media medico over so many years.
Dr Wright has four children, nine grandchildren & four great grandchildren. To show the class of this family, within minutes of me finishing a tribute to Dr Wright on the Ben Fordham show on Sydney’s 2GB last week, his son David rang my clinic to thank me for the kind words I said about his dad.
The great English scientist, Sir Isaac Newton once said,
If I can see further, it’s because I’m standing on the shoulders of giants.
Dr James Wright is certainly one of those giants, a giant in medicine and a giant in this country. I salute the extraordinary life of a man who lived life to the fullest and enriched the practice of medicine and enriched this country.