Meet Dr Mark Peterson - the ‘nosey bugger’ on the Board

Member news

College Board member and recently appointed New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) Fellow Mark Peterson puts his 30-year involvement in medical governance down to being a ‘bit of a nosey bugger’.

The Hawke’s Bay GP combines his College role with a place on the Council of Medical Colleges’ Board. He is also deputy chair of Health Hawke’s Bay and a former chair of NZMA.

“I’ve always been very inquisitive – I hate not knowing what’s going on in the sector,” he says.

A nosey bugger he might be, but Mark’s interest in governance is also motivated by putting his money where his mouth is.

“I see a lot of people complaining about things in medicine and the system we work in. My stance is that if you don’t like things you can either sit around and moan, or you can get involved in trying to bring about change.”

On top of his governance duties Mark works six tenths at his practice in Taradale, Napier and four tenths as chief medical officer primary care at Hawke’s Bay DHB. A keen runner and cyclist who tries to exercise every day, he values whatever spare time he can grab – although paperwork is often a feature of evenings and weekends.

As with many GPs, paperwork is not Mark’s preferred way of passing time. In fact it’s the least favourite part of a career he has happily pursued since buying into the Taradale Medical Centre in 1984. 

“Paperwork has definitely got worse over the years,” he sighs. “Things have become increasingly bureaucratic in terms of practice management – there is just so much information, physical and electronic, passing across our desks these days.”

So it’s clear what he likes least about being a GP. But what is it that has kept him in the job for more than 32 years? 

“Without doubt the best thing for me is patient contact and continuity of care,” he says. “I’ve still got patients enrolled from when I started. I did GP obstetrics up until three years ago and that, along with my general GP duties, have helped me develop some fantastic and long-lasting relationships.”

Mark’s recent appointment as an NZMA Fellow was a significant milestone in a medical governance journey that began when he became secretary of the local division of the NZMA. He soon joined the executive committee of the former General Practitioners Association and a few years later became chair of the GP Council and the NZMA. He was also the Hawkes Bay Sub-Faculty chair for many years.

His association with the College began with sitting at its Council for many years as a representative of the NZMA GP Council. Partly as a result he was asked to join the College’s governance review committee, a role that ultimately led to him joining the Board. 

“Having played a part in the review and creating a new structure I thought the least I should do was stand for election to the Board,” he says.

“I got elected and I thought it would be a case of being on the Board for a year and then coming off. But someone stood down so I was able to carry on.” Two years ago Mark narrowly missed out on re-election but was invited back as an appointed member. He was re-appointed last year for a three-year term.

Mark credits his work in governance with helping him maintain enthusiasm for his day job, at the practice where he has spent more than three decades.

“When I talk to younger GPs and people in training I suggest that they need to have some kind of special interest because over time the job of being a GP is quite stressful and can become all-consuming. Medical politics and governance has been my special interest, or outlet, over the years.

“A personal or work interest is a great thing to have. Doing something else can certainly help maintain interest in your core work of general practice.”

With such a busy schedule, Mark doesn’t have much time to think about the future. The 58-year-old has crammed a lot into his life to date – he’s also a married father of three adult children – and he doesn’t see his activity winding down in the near future.

That can only be a good thing for patients and the medical fraternity. We all need inquisitive and effective ‘nosey buggers’ like Mark Peterson.