Queens Birthday award a surprise

Francis Patrick Joseph Farry - MNZM for services to rural medicine
Francis Patrick Joseph Farry - MNZM for services to rural medicine
Queenstown GP Pat Farry says it was a big surprise to be awarded an MNZM for services to rural medicine.

He said the Queen's Birthday honour came completely out of the blue.

"I didn't ever expect to get something like this for just doing your job day-to-day," he said.

Dr Farry (65) has dedicated nearly 40 years to rural medicine and education for general practitioners.

However, he says he couldn't have done it without the efforts and support of his wife, Sue.

"It takes nearly all of my time to do what I do. I couldn't have worked in the University of Otago unless Sue did everything else. If I deserve this honour, then it should be shared with Sue," he said.

Mrs Farry is a physiotherapist and has run the couple's homestay accommodation, Punatapu Lodge, for the past 14 years.

Dr Farry began practising as a GP in Queenstown in 1971 and soon after began teaching students and registrars in the resort.

He was a member of the Southland District Health Board for two terms in the 1970s and his passion has always been rural medicine.

"People find it funny that Queenstown is classed as rural. But it is two and a-half hours from specialist care so GPs have to deal with emergencies as they come up. It makes it very exciting," he said.

Rural areas were the best place for GPs to practise and learn because they got a broad range of experience, he said.

He helped found the University of Otago Te Waipounamu Rural Health Unit for the education of rural doctors, founded the Matagouri Club for undergraduate students with an interest in rural medicine, and was the rural medical director for the South Island.

In 2007, he developed the first one-year Rural Medical Immersion Programme for medical students in New Zealand.

Every year, 20 medical students spend the fifth year of medical school in one of six rural centres, including Queenstown and the West Coast.

Last year, four of the students achieved distinction in their class. One reached top of the class, climbing 56 places from the year before while spending time in a rural hospital.

Dr Farry was the regional director of the College of General Practitioners Registrar Training Programme and was made a Distinguished Fellow.

For 10 years he was chairman of the Education Committee of the New Zealand College of General Practitioners and is still a member of the college's education board.

Dr Farry was awarded the Peter Snow Memorial Award in 2008 by the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network.

"Peter was a colleague of mine and a very good friend, so it was really nice to receive that award," he said.

He is still fighting for recognition for rural medicine and is proud of the strides made.

"When I was first involved with the University of Otago there was no department of general practice - now we are working hard to get the first department of rural medicine," he said.

It was "fantastic" that the university had recently advertised for a chair in rural medicine.

His three sons had not followed him into medicine, opting instead for management, acting and information technology.

"I think rural GPs' children see medicine up too close. They saw that it was very demanding and so many times during family activities the call would come in and I'd be away for four hours. They feel it is not the sort of lifestyle for them," he said.

Dr Farry is a proud grandfather of three.

He said he tried to retire three years ago before the funding came through for the immersion programme.

"I'll stick around as long as there is work to be done. I think you should retire to do things you enjoy doing, apart from your job, when you feel as if you are finished and no longer useful. But I'm still achieving at the moment," he said.

He said Queenstown was a great community to work in.

"I have been privileged to care for patients in Queenstown for nearly 40 years. The community is a really important part of my learning experience. Queenstown community is a supportive one and always willing to look at innovative new ideas," he said.

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