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“New Leadership For Senior Doctors Union”

“New Leadership For Senior Doctors Union”

“On 1 April there will be a new National President for senior doctors with the election of Dr David Galler (Middlemore Hospital) to this position,” said Mr Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, today. Outgoing National President Dr Peter Roberts did not stand for re-election after completing three 2-year terms. Dr Galler is moving up from the position of Vice President.

“Dr Roberts’ six years as National President followed a commitment of four years as Vice President. He also was a former high profile spokesperson for the Coalition for Public Health. There are few people who can match Dr Roberts’ passion and commitment for a high quality and accessible public health service.”

“Dr Roberts was well known for inserting into his Wellington Hospital identity tag a photograph of Sean Connery because he maintained there was no difference in appearance. His replacement Dr Galler meanwhile has for some years been engaged in barely subtle campaign to become the first Jewish pope.”

“The national leadership of senior doctors is expected to continue in irreverent hands,” concluded Mr Powell.


Background Information

Attached is a tribute to Dr Roberts from Dr Galler that has been published in the latest (March) issue of the Association’s quarterly publication, The Specialist.


On 20 February Peter R Roberts chaired his last meeting of the ASMS National Executive. After three terms and six years as President, two terms and four years as Vice President and a further term and two years on the National Executive, and despite calls for him to remain as President for life, Peter has decided to move on.

Before I speculate as to where he might be going, I would like to pay special tribute to the extraordinary contribution that he has made to the ongoing healthcare debate in NZ and to the high standing that the Association now enjoys.

Peter trained in Medicine in West Virginia before coming to New Zealand in the mid-1970s. So smitten with the place was he that he never left. He trained in Internal Medicine and became a full-time specialist in the Departments of Intensive Care and Medicine at Wellington Hospital, later to become Capital Coast Health and later still to be called Capital & Coast Health.

Whilst names were changing around him at an alarming rate, Peter thankfully remained Peter R Roberts: grandson of the Governor of West Virginia, son of a politically active mother and Dr Donald R Roberts, a family physician.

Peter is a great storyteller and indeed more than that, he believes that it is through stories that we learn the lessons of life. Well here is one of Peter’s stories: As a young medical student, one summer, Peter returned home to work with his father in family practice. On this occasion his dad was helping a woman deliver. Peter remembers arriving a bit late, scrubbing up as he was taught to do at Medical School and then backing carefully into the delivery suite. What this young man saw on entering the room made quite an impression on him. The expectant mother was in stirrups, apparently a common, maybe even a universal practise at the time, his father, mask down on his chin, was leaning up gently against one of her legs, rubbing her tummy and chatting about life.

In those days before the onslaught of managed care/costs, Peter’s father was allowed to be a real doctor. He had time and took great pleasure in looking after the whole of the patient and both he and his patients got real value out of this unique and most privileged of relationships.

It is those values and those beliefs, the attributes of true professionalism that Peter has espoused so consistently and so steadfastly. If you haven’t already, I urge you to go to the ASMS website www.asms.org.nz and read the Presidential addresses and the President’s Column in sequential issues of The Specialist. In his previous column Peter has looked at issues surrounding the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Bill. This particular column has captured the attention and intellectual empathy of the German Medical Association who are regular followers of The Specialist.

For Peter to have held fast to those values through the 1990s was no easy task. Remember TINA or ‘There Is No Alternative’? No alternative to the competitive market to decide health priorities and fund our health services. As a founding member of the Coalition For Public Health and later as our National President, Peter was in the frontline of a concerted and sustained attack on so many of the values that make us whom we are. Not only was he under siege politically, he was also the subject of a number of vicious and underhand personal attacks from within his own employing organisation. It is a credit to him and his glorious family that they have weathered this storm so well.

So well in fact that his star has risen anew, this time, in academic skies. Peter has recently completed his Masterate in Public Policy from Victoria University. He topped his class winning the Prime Minister’s Prize and won the Sir Frank Holmes Prize for his research project. This work, soon to be published in book form, Snakes and Ladders - The Pursuit of a Safety Culture in New Zealand Public Hospitals, focuses on error and safety and will be essential reading for clinicians and policy makers alike.

Peter Roberts remains a husband to Kyra, a father to Reed and Miles, the Clinical Leader of Internal Medicine at Capital and Coast Health, an expert fly fisher and a policy analyst at the Ministry of Health. It is in this latter role that Peter has so much to contribute. I hope that the Ministry will allow him to flourish and to make an ongoing contribution to something that he has dedicated so much of his life to, the quality of care that we offer our patients in public hospitals in New Zealand.

I know that I speak for all of our members by thanking Peter for all that he has achieved on our behalf. We all wish him the best for the future.

Dr David Galler


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