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Surgeons receive prestigious Australasian College Award

Media Release

Wednesday 26 August, 2014

Northland Surgeons receive prestigious Australasian College of Surgeons award

Two Whangarei surgeons are the first in New Zealand to receive a prestigious Australasian award.

Mr Jeremy (Jerry) St Clair Gathercole and Mr Peter Britten Milsom were recipients of the Outstanding Service to the Community Award at the recent Northland Health Sector Awards.

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons award recognises a college fellow’s long-term dedication and commitment to serving his or her community through the provision of quality surgical services.

“The Outstanding Service to the Community Award has been designed to recognise Fellows who have given long and dedicated service to their local community”, said Mr Nigel Willis FRACS - Chair of the College’s NZ National Board.

“More often than not this dedication goes unheralded. Without this commitment and dedication the standard of surgical care in the community would have been less than society demands.”

Mr Jeremy (Jerry) Gathercole
Mr Gathercole’s positive impact has been credited with developing a Provincial Otolaryngology Service second to none in New Zealand and in an area with limitations on access to health care and high levels of ear disease due to socioeconomic and cultural issues.

“His easily-recognised powerful voice helped to reinforce his advice to his patients. His clear vision, professionalism, and interpersonal skills ensured co-operative working, saving hearing and helping to reduce deafness rate throughout Northland,” says Mr Subhaschandra Shetty, Ear Nose Throat Consultant, Northland DHB. Mr Shetty nominated Mr Gathercole for this prestigious award.

Mr Gathercole gained his medical degree in the UK and moved to New Zealand where he completed training in otolaryngology, head and neck surgery, receiving a FRACS (Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons) in February 1983. He moved to Whangarei Hospital in the mid-1980s to replace the first ENT surgeon George Wilson and, like his predecessor, was in solo practice there for some years until joined by a colleague in early 90s.

In his early years in Northland Mr Gathercole set about establishing the model of care for childhood middle ear disease in disadvantaged New Zealand communities, based on his experience with the children of Northland. He did this using a sensible and pragmatic approach, combined with a determination and vision that carried him forward, against the odds. His ability to engage with colleagues, patients, and the community at large meant that over time he built up enormous good-will, and achieved outstanding success in providing first-class clinical care.

Mr Gathercole was involved in establishing the middle ear caravan service in Northland and he pioneered the programme of Grommet Blitz to accelerate the process of identifying the children with glue ear and providing an early surgical intervention service throughout the region. He takes active interest in indigenous ENT health and runs a fortnightly clinic in the far north area of New Zealand where accessing healthcare has been an issue for many years.

He also co-authored a popular glue ear book for general practitioners and this is used as reference work throughout the country. He pioneered in tympanic reconstruction techniques, teaches numerous otology skills to younger trainees on a regular basis and is involved in undergraduate teaching for Auckland University.

His colleagues identified his meticulous record-keeping as just one of the keys to Mr Gathercole’s success. They also acknowledge his administrative skills and his ability to be introspective, self-critical and objective. These abilities have made him a valued manager in the hospital, appreciated by both his medical colleagues and senior management.

Mr Gathercole has also served as an important member of the New Zealand Society of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. He designed and ran their website for a decade and successfully organised a national conference in Paihia in 2008.

Mr Peter Milsom

Throughout his time as a surgeon, Mr Milsom displayed a deep sense of dedication to the public and his patients, especially the poor and the many Māori who make up much of the Northland population, offered Mr Mark Sanders, General Surgeon, Northland DHB.

“He remembered their names, their families and whānau and was accepted as a valued member of their community. At times his work demands were huge and he worked many hours, well beyond the call of duty.”

Mr Milsom gained his medical degree from Otago University and did his training in general surgery in the Auckland region, being awarded the FRACS in 1972.

He joined the New Zealand Surgical Team Qui Nhon, Vietnam, for 18 months in 1973. Following a short period in surgery in Auckland, Mr Milsom then took a career change and became a general practitioner in the Bay of Islands. However, within a short period he was, once again, involved in surgery as a part-time surgeon and obstetrician for the Bay of Islands Hospital in Kawakawa. His expertise as an obstetrician was aided by two O & G specialist superintendents who taught him his skills in this area so that there was cover for the emergency service for the Bay of Islands. Mr Milsom eventually became the superintendent of this hospital.

In 1994 Mr Milsom became part of the general surgical service in Whangarei Hospital. He helped immensely to streamline the acute and elective services in Northland, against a climate of opposition by politicians, the public and some doctors. He took up opportunities to upskill. His personality, expertise and ready-availability made him hugely popular with the junior and senior medical and nursing staff. As a consequence, in time Whangarei was a most sought-after placement for surgical registrars.

Mr Milsom became Head of the General Surgical Department at Whangarei Hospital and then Head of the Department of Surgery for Northland DHB.


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