GP awarded top honour for enduring service to Balclutha community, and to Rural Health

9 August 2021

Dr Branko Sijnja, a Balclutha based GP, has been awarded Distinguished Fellowship of The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. 

Distinguished Fellowship is awarded to Fellows of the College who have made sustained contributions to general practice, medicine, or the health and wellbeing of the community. 

Dr Sijnja has worked as a fulltime GP in Balclutha since 1974. He was drawn to general practice by the relationships he was able to build and consistency he could provide his patients. Over the last 47 years Dr Sijnja has delivered hundreds of babies, watched them grow, and then cared for their children.  

College President Dr Samantha Murton says, “After 47 years in general practice, Dr Sijnja will have changed the lives of many people in Balclutha, not only as a doctor, but as a member of the community.” 

When faced with the closure of a local hospital early in his career, Dr Sijnja was part of a group advocating for the creation of a purpose-built facility that would meet the community’s healthcare needs. Clutha Health First opened in December 1998 and was the start of a new chapter for Dr Sijnja, and for the Balclutha community.

Two decades on, Dr Sijnja is still involved in the governance of Clutha Health First. He works in the clinic one day a week, sometimes for 12 hours a day, and seeing up to 30 patients, alongside a practice nurse who has worked with him since 1980. He spends the rest of his week mentoring up to 25 fifth year medical students.

As Director of the Rural Medical Immersion Programme in the Department of General Practice and Rural Health at the University of Otago, Dr Sijnja continues to encourage and empower the next generation of rural doctors.

This year, six GPs received Distinguished Fellowship at the College’s conference in Wellington.