Heart surgeon Dr Robert Xu, second from right, attends a Cardiac Sciences Symposium with colleagues in October.
Heart surgeon Dr Robert Xu, second from right, attends a Cardiac Sciences Symposium with colleagues in October.

Man who died at docks was talented trainee surgeon

The family and colleagues of a talented cardiothoracic surgical trainee who died at Hobart's waterfront last week have expressed their grief at losing the "incredibly dedicated" and high-calibre doctor.

Robert Xu, 32, had completed his junior surgical training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, enjoying a "stellar career", and was training in cardiothoracic surgery at the Epworth Hospital in Melbourne when tragedy struck on November 7.

Dr Xu was visiting Hobart for the Australian and New Zealand Society of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgeons annual scientific meeting at the Hotel Grand Chancellor and had been with colleagues before his death.

BODY FOUND BY POLICE AT HOBART DOCKS

He was seen struggling in the water at Victoria Dock about 4.30am by an early-morning jogger, who tried to help and called police for assistance.

Tragically, police divers retrieved Dr Xu's submerged body about 6.15am.

Trainee heart surgeon Dr Robert Xu who died at Victoria Dock in Hobart on November 7.
Trainee heart surgeon Dr Robert Xu who died at Victoria Dock in Hobart on November 7.

Dr Xu's mentor and one of his consultant surgeon supervisors at the Epworth, Marco Larobina, said there had been a "profound" outpouring of grief among Melbourne's surgical community.

"Robert was an incredibly dedicated doctor in his care of patients mixing the uncommon skills of an exemplary bedside manner with sublime medical knowledge," Mr Larobina said.

"These attributes were recognised by all of the nursing and medical staff and perhaps most importantly his patients."

Mr Larobina, who is also the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons cardiothoracic surgery training board deputy chair, said he and his surgical colleagues were grief-stricken at losing not only a "wonderful person" but also a talented colleague and his future surgical potential.

"The loss to the Australian community of an individual of this calibre is difficult to comprehend."

Dr Xu had also completed a number of research projects, had published widely, and had presented to national and international audiences.

Epworth heart surgeon Mr Marco Larobina
Epworth heart surgeon Mr Marco Larobina

Dr Xu's parents Roger and Shuhua described their "beloved son" as "gentle, kind, caring, genuine, loving and bright".

"He would have so much to contribute in surgery and research," they said.

They said Dr Xu was born in Melbourne while his parents were completing their postgraduate studies.

"He followed us like our loving cute pet and brought us so much happiness."

They said Dr Xu completed primary school in Hong Kong before attending high school at Westminster School in Adelaide with a scholarship, and graduated in 2003 with the dux medal for achieving the highest score in his university entrance exams.

"He was persistent, always aimed for the highest, and tried his best," they said.

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Both Royal Adelaide and Epworth hospitals will hold commemorative events to honour the loss of their colleague, who is remembered for his blend of "respectfulness, professionalism and his skills as a surgeon".


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