Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Most people enjoy snapshots of a person's outside appearance, taking clicks here and there. Unlike normal photographers, George Sargun Stephen (pictured with wife May) takes 'pictures of people's insides' or radiography to be exact although the common term is medical imaging.

For those who are not familiar with what radiography is all about, just know it is an X-ray photograph of something, especially a part of the body. George was born on May 20, 1930 and brought up in Votualevu, Nadi. His parents, Prem Masih and Eva Stephen were teachers.

His father was also a marine engineer and a coastal captain but being a teacher was his first profession. Growing up in Nadi, George wanted to become a marine engineer although his mother was not keen on the idea because it meant time away from the family for long periods.
"My father was a headmaster. We were not affluent or filthy rich when growing up. We were no better than cane farmers," he said.

"But my parents worked hard to provide us with a good life. "I was home schooled by my mother in the kitchen most of my life growing up. It was only when I reached Class Eight that I had to sit for the Fiji Secondary School Entrance examination.

"They did not have those for private students." He attended Class Eight at Saint Joseph's Primary school in Naililili before completing his secondary education at Marist Brothers High.

Path to radiography

When his mother did not want him out at sea as a marine engineer, George decided to take on a profession in radiography. He moved to New Zealand where he attained his English membership with the Society of Radiographers of London.

After returning to Fiji, he began work at the Colonial War Memorial hospital where he moved from tea boy to radiographic assistant in the X-ray department. "I used to be clean and mop the hospital too. Being a radiographic assistant was a pre-requisite for an Australian course in the same field.

"I became a qualified radiographer and was the first local in Fiji to attain membership with the Society of Radiographers in London. "For me, this was the highest I could attain in the profession and I am proud of what I have achieved. "My parents supported my education financially and I am very grateful for that."


He was also a radiography lecturer at the Fiji School of Medicine. From an early age, George was adamant and determined to reach the top of his career. He spent his professional life working at the hospital and upon retirement on January 14, 1989, George joined Saint Giles hospital as a volunteer.

At the same time in the early 1990s, he felt he still had much to contribute to Fiji and joined the Diabetes Centre. "After retirement, I volunteered my medical skills to various organisations. I wanted to give back something to the nation.
"I always felt I had something to contribute. "Helping people is where I find joy. I joined the board of visitors of St. Giles and every three months we would tour the hospital and present our recommendations and report to the Ministry of health."

With minimum media awareness on mental health issues, George believes the stigma associated with mental health and those suffering from it should be done away with. According to George, people tend to forget about patients at St. Giles who need a lot of help especially the support of the community.

His interest in caring for the welfare of the sick especially patients at St. Giles is commendable.
If there is one difference George can make to change the perspective of people on St. Giles patients, it is that mental health illness is not infectious and transmittable.

"Mental health is a non communicable disease but if people find their close friends or relatives behaving in an odd way, they should be taken to St. Giles immediately. "The quicker they are brought in the better it is to help them get better." He is married to May and recently celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary.

The father of two believes hard work and determination are the underlying values to anyone's success in life.

10 things about George

* Has an interest in young people playing sports;
* Does not drink alcohol but prefers tea and coffee;
* Likes gardening and fishing in his spare time;
* Loves anything his wife cooks and prepares;
* Considers his parents his role models;
* His older sister inspired him to take up radiography;
* Likes to listen to soft music;
* Was one of three people in a team that conducted the first haemoid dialysis at the Lautoka hospital in 1977;
* He was a volunteer at the Wellington hospital during the polio epidemic in 1956;
* Favourite quote is 'In time take time while time does last. For time is no time when time is past.'
Adpted from Fijitimes Online

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