Driven and devoted Tasmanian doctor Craig White

He may have retired, but Devonport born doctor Craig White is still intent on saving lives.

Dr White and his partner of 23 years, Rod Anderson, have donated $50,000 to the Pinnacle Foundation which provides scholarships and mentors to LGBT+ young adults to help them reach their full potential.

“It was about doing something for young people that other organisations weren't doing and that is focused on young LGBTI Tasmanians at a critical stage of their lives,” Dr White said.

“We both know about the challenges of growing up as gay kids in unsupportive environments and how hard it can be to survive.

"Some of these young people give up. They drop out of school or withdraw and they can end up nowhere in their life.

“A mentor can save and transform a life.”

Dr White, 59, was born in Devonport, the youngest of four children.

His father, John, was a successful businessman, a produce merchant who for years supplied most of the potatoes to the Sydney market, a champion state road cyclist and a stalwart and life member of both the Devonport pacing and athletic clubs.

“He worked incredibly hard and gave me a very solid work ethic,” Dr White says fondly.

Mr White senior is 95 and lives at Meercroft.

As a child Dr White was always inquisitive, repeatedly asking “why”.

A brilliant student his name is on the honour board at Devonport High.

He was only 15 when his academic prowess was recognised and he won one of two prestigious Education Department scholarships to study in Singapore for two years.

“It was a wonderful scholarship but I was a child and I'd never really been away from home apart to stay with an aunt at Port Sorell - it wasn't like I was well travelled,” he laughs.

“My parents were devastated but they were generous and caring enough to let me do what I wanted to do.

"I was feeling suffocated by the lack of a place that felt comfortable for me."

Dr White chooses his words carefully but admits he struggled to fit in.

“You had to play sport, play cards and smoke,” he said.

"I just knew there had to be something outside Devonport that was new and different and I had to find it.

"I didn't fit in there - I didn't understand about being different.”

As a boarder at the acclaimed United World College of South East Asia, he overcame initial homesickness to again excel academically, and was in the top three students when his studies finished.

He returned to Australia and studied medicine at Melbourne University.

“Medicine was a head choice, a heart choice would have been an architect,” Dr White said.

He specialised in medical management and worked at both the Austin and Alfred Hospitals and for a medical malpractice insurer.

He was appointed as chief medical officer at Monash Health which was bigger than the entire Tasmanian health system with 40 sites and 1500 doctors and involved long hours.

In 2007 he was head hunted to take over as head of the Royal Hobart Hospital.

He and Mr Anderson had a fantastic and settled life in Melbourne but made the giant leap to return to Tasmania where pockets of homophobia remained.

“I never thought I would live here again and the Royal was very stressful but like a curate’s egg there were good parts,” Dr White said.

He left the RHH when he got the first of three cancers.

"I was diagnosed with two cancers and I had to leave the ultra stress job and move into the (health) department,” Dr White said.

In 2011 he had major surgery for a third cancer but remarkably still worked.

With his strong work ethic and determination he worked through treatment for his cancers including 35 days in a row of radiotherapy which made him feel progressively worse.

"I was particularly determined because that was at a time when there were major budget cuts and I had to shed 30 per cent of my staff,” Dr White said.

Dr Craig White, Rod Anderson and Dr Bob Brown.

Dr Craig White, Rod Anderson and Dr Bob Brown.

"I didn't feel that I could delegate that to anyone.”

As Mr Anderson explains: “It's a bit like being hit by lightning three times in a couple of years. What are the odds? Craig had three separate cancers, none of them related to the others.

“It was remarkable but it really took its toll but he’s so diligent and honourable….he was determined that people should be treated well.”

Dr White retired in 2015 and is not keen to discuss his health now.

"It's an unfolding story, I feel fine but I’m still dealing with oncologists.”

The couple bought a 25 acre farm south of Hobart after Dr White’s last cancer treatment. It is their sanctuary which they love, along with their many animals, including miniature goats.

Mr Anderson, who has had an amazing life as a singer, actor, Hindhu monk, spiritual teacher, theatre and television director and consultant to international companies, hopes that their donation to the Pinnacle Foundation will change young lives.

“We don’t want young people to lose their lives....you have a feeling when you grow up as a young gay man or woman that you don't fit in,” Mr Anderson said.

“People react to you as though you don't fit in - even the people who love you.

"They behave strangely to you and you behave strangely to them.”

Mr Anderson said many young LGBTIQ adults suffered and lost their confidence because they had no-one to support them.

“We want them to know it gets better - this is how you can be successful - mentors open up the world of possibilities.

“We would have easier and happier lives if we had had a mentor and support.

“Neither of us had had horrible parents but the point is you already feel bad even if at 14 or 16 you don't know why but you just know you don't fit in.”

The donation sends a powerful message to young LGBTI Tasmanians that there is support for them to find their place in the world.

Scholarship applications are open at https://thepinnaclefoundation.org