At the funeral of his brother, the late Robert Kennedy said: “Most people see things as they are and say; Why? My brother saw things as they could be and said; Why not?”
My brother Pat Farry held a strong belief in precisely the same principle.
After graduating from Otago University Pat briefly considered pursing a career in surgery but after going to Queenstown as a locum he found, in the glorious terrain of the Wakatipu district, his true calling as a rural General Practitioner. After more than three decades he had a very clear idea of the problems that faced rural doctors on a day to day basis. Education and training for rural general practice was virtually non-existent and a total lack of locums meant that rural practitioners had little chance of holidays or time to pursue continuing education. In the early 1970’s general practice had become rather unfashionable and rural general practice, in particular, was of little interest to young graduates.
Over the years Pat travelled extensively to Australia, Canada, USA and Great Britain, gaining insight into how rural general practitioners were educated and how they operated in other parts of the world. He adapted his observations to the New Zealand environment and began the long quest to establish his vision of rural medical education.
After years of intense effort a milestone was reached in 2006 when the then Minister of Health provided $300,000 to pilot the Rural Medical Immersion Programme (RMIP) for fifth year students at Otago University. This amount was sufficient to place five students in rural situations and set in motion a new concept of rural medical education. In response to a further request from Pat, the Minister of Health in 2009 provided $120,000 for the development of a video conference tele-medicine network at six RMIP teaching centres.
The pilot programme was very successful and as a result the Otago University advanced $1.2million for the expansion of RMIP in 2009 and twenty students were placed in six rural locations around New Zealand. It was the dawn of a new era in rural medical education.
Meanwhile, Pat and his team were seeking financial support from local organisations in order to establish a Chair of rural general practice at Otago University. The group succeeded in obtaining a grant of $300,000 from the Community Trust of Southland and $400,000 from the Community Trust of Otago to establish the Chair and the world search for a suitable appointee to that Chair is ongoing.
Pat made an enormous contribution to rural medical education and it is fair to say that he not only helped in its revival, but possibly in its very survival.
In Pat’s memory and in recognition of his dedication, family and friends have established the Pat Farry Rural Health Education Trust to commerate his achievements and to further develop and maintain his vision.
The Pat Farry Rural Health Education Trust