Respected surgeon retires after 40 years

Mr Murray Pfeifer,
Mr Murray Pfeifer,

Southland Hospital this week bids farewell to respected surgeon and wellknown champion for Southland patients, Mr Murray Pfeifer, after 40 years’ service.

Murray has become one of Southland’s most valued adopted sons, and there wouldn’t be many in the community who hasn’t had a friend or loved one benefit from his care over the years.

Best known as a Breast Surgeon by Southlanders, Murray modestly says he “fell into breast surgery by accident”. A local woman, via a Letter to the Editor, asked about the diagnostic imaging >available in Southland – and when asked to reply on behalf of the Hospital, Murray had to admit there was “next to none”. (Although he hastens to add it was the same for most hospitals in New Zealand, as mammography was only just starting to emerge.)

This led to formation of the Southland Mammography Trust, spearheaded by Jenny Lemin, to raise money for an dedicated mammography machine for Southland. “I became the pin up boy for the Mammography Trust,” Murray chuckles.

At the same time, a combined application from Otago and Southland saw them chosen, along with Waikato, as one of two pilot areas for the mammography screening programme.

Southland women embraced the concept of mammography and “enough money was raised to buy three machines”. The Trust bought a machine and wisely invested the rest, which funded screening for Southland women who did not meet the criteria for national screening for the next 25 years.

Asked about his speaking up in public

over the years, Murray feels

“It is part of professional responsibility to be an advocate. At the end of the day you want to do your best for the patient in front of you. When you see things aren’t right and care could be better you try to do something about it. Occasionally that means speaking out publicly.”

Only two weeks’ ago, Murray’s 40 years of service was recognised with a long service award at the Southern DHB’s Southern Excellence Awards, and on 11 December he officially retired.

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