British GP Chris Reid has always had a passion for an adventurous life, so it was almost inevitable that his path would bring him to New Zealand.
His 16 years here working in the beautiful Bay of Islands saw him make a huge contribution to the profession, which the College has recognised by awarding Chris a Distinguished Fellowship.
“I am very humbled and surprised, he says from his home in Cornwall on England’s South Coast. “My time with the College was a big part of my life and this award reminds me of all the passionate people I worked with. I still feel very connected to them all.”
Chris arrived in New Zealand in 2004 with his wife and two border terriers and stepped straight into rural general practice at Whangaparaoa Medical Centre before taking up a partnership at the Kerikeri Medical Centre.
“It was wonderful working up there - great people and patients,” he says. “We were also a teaching practice, so I often had medical students with me. One of those has returned to be a permanent GP, which is very satisfying and proof that the system works!”
The move was prompted by a need for adventure after living in the sleepy village of Wimborne – a quintessential English hamlet of thatch-roofed cottages.
“I served as a Medical Officer in the Royal Marines for 10 years pretty much straight out of medical training – heady stuff for a 20-something,” he says. “It was a huge responsibility for such young shoulders and extremely exciting to be part of the 40 Commando unit and the Special Boat Service.
“Once I left the Marines and got married, things settled down a bit too much and I think both my wife and I felt there was more out there for us.”
So, they sold up and headed to the other side of the world.
“I served as a Medical Officer in the Royal Marines for 10 years pretty much straight out of medical training – heady stuff for a 20-something”
Chris’s abilities did not go unnoticed by fellow Northland GP Kyle Eggleton, who elected him to the Northland Faculty Executive at its annual conference one year – despite Chris not being present!
“I never went to the Northland conference because it was a pretty quiet sort of a thing, but thanks to Kyle I was suddenly very much involved!” he says.
One of his first achievements was changing the venue of the conference to the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell and shaking up the structure of the event, which saw numbers grow considerably.
Chris’s governance interests also grew, and he became the Northland representative on the National Advisory Council, becoming Chair after a relatively short time. This gave him a seat on the College Board, which he enjoyed being part of. He also chaired the College Conference Committee.
“It was a busy time, but I found it very rewarding,” he says. “It was great to connect with so many of my fellow GPs and all the College staff and feel like what you were doing was making a difference.”
During this time, Chris also developed his love of portrait photography, taking images of his patients (with their consent) over a decade and eventually publishing a successful book of his photography called Patients. His images were exhibited all over New Zealand, as well as in London. All the royalties from the book sales were donated to St John New Zealand.
“My time with the College was a big part of my life and this award reminds me of all the passionate people I worked with. I still feel very connected to them all.”
While Chris and his family loved life in New Zealand, it was important to them that their teenage son Finn was educated in the UK for his high school years, so they returned to England at the beginning of 2020.
“It all turned into a bit of a rushed exit, unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” explains Chris. “Finn had already returned to start school, and we could see that travel restrictions were imminent, so I had to go straight away.
“But that just means we have to return one day to see everyone again!”
Chris is now working in a general practice near Falmouth, which has a real Kiwi feel to it.
“All of us have spent time in New Zealand and so there is a real soft spot for the place in the clinic, although I don’t think we are ready to wear shorts and jandals to work quite yet,” he laughs.