Sitting in a laboratory late one night working on his biochemistry research, Dr Chris Boberg looked around at the test tubes on his bench and realised his real passion was for working with people.

The very next year, 1978, the Bachelor of Science graduate entered medical school and went on to enjoy a rewarding and varied career as a general practitioner.

It wasn’t an easy decision however. Chris notes that researchers at the time were making fascinating new discoveries about metabolism, recombinant DNA, and gene research. 

In his career as a GP though, Chris was just as much of a pioneer as he had been as a biochemistry researcher; in the late ‘90s he was one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s first doctors to be trained to use dermoscopes.

“Very early on I knew that dermoscopes would make a massive difference when it came to picking up melanoma early,” says Chris.

“That wasn’t widely accepted early on though. When I came back from an Australian conference – with what I think was the first dermoscope in the country – one of our local dermatologists got in touch with me.

“He told me the dermatologists in town had attended a meeting and were confident that this tech wouldn’t catch on. I was stunned – but it did motivate me to prove him wrong.”

“GPs in Australia and New Zealand are recognised internationally as managing our response to skin cancer really well, but we can always do better and look to improve.”

Aotearoa New Zealand has the world’s highest incidence rate of melanoma, and more than 350 Kiwis die of melanoma every year according to the Ministry of Health.

Chris firmly believes that no one in New Zealand should die from melanoma, and one of the keys to achieving this is early detection.

“All GPs can use the dermascope, and they can learn how to do it quickly. It gives you the ability to check opportunistically for spots, and to get people back for full skin checks. 

“GPs in Australia and New Zealand are recognised internationally as managing our response to skin cancer really well, but we can always do better and look to improve.”

Chris is passionate about ensuring Aotearoa New Zealand is at the forefront of quality patient care, and enjoys doing his bit to advocate for skin cancer awareness, prevention and treatment.

Some of his advocacy roles include serving as co-Chair of MelNet, representing GPs on the Ministry of Health’s Melanoma Standards Committee, and participating in the New Zealand Skin Cancer Strategic Planning Group.

Chris is also President of New Zealand Skin Cancer Doctors, a society of GPs with further education and training in diagnosing and managing skin cancer. The society has established skin cancer peer groups around the country, for GPs and skin cancer doctors to discuss cases and learn together.

“Very early on I knew that dermoscopes would make a massive difference when it came to picking up melanoma early,” says Chris.

“As GPs, we love learning and we enjoy sharing what we know. That’s why the peer groups are so successful, no question.

“General practice is a true vocation – it requires multi-tasking and up-to-date knowledge, so we all want the opportunity to learn from each other.”

Chris credits this collegial learning approach as one of the strategies that help him stay healthy and well. 

“As a young GP you feel invincible and you have tonnes of energy. When you get to mid-life you realise you can’t sustain that, and you develop strategies for taking care of yourself.

“It’s important to take stock and have ‘me’ time, engage with my family, and stay close to my colleagues. It helps to talk about things, to share things.”