Dr Bob le Quesne, owner at Otorohanga-based Pinnacle Midlands Health Network practice Oto Med, is retiring this month after some four and a half decades as a general practitioner (GP).
Dr le Quesne quips he unexpectedly fell into ownership of Oto Med for three and a half years after "spontaneously opening his mouth and buying the practice," in July 2014.
"I had been doing locum work at Oto Med for quite some time. The practice was going through some challenges, and I suddenly found I said I would buy it. I was 64 years old," he said.
According to Dr le Quesne he had two aims when taking ownership. To encourage a "happy place" and to transform it into new and modern premises. Both of which he say says have come to fruition.
"Not only do staff seem in good spirits, development of a new facility with the potential to accommodate six doctors, plus associated supporting medical services, is underway."
Although from Friday 26 January Dr le Quesne will no longer undertake any GP work, he will be helping manage the build.
"The build will start at the beginning of June. The hope is that the new facility will be ready to open come June or July 2019," he said, "at which time the existing six doctors, six nurses, and five receptionists will move in and take care of business".
The small town of Otorohanga, 'Kiwiana town', is quaint and familiar to Dr le Quesne but paints only a small portion of his colourful career picture, which has lasted 46 years.
"I qualified back in 1972 at the Medical College of St Bartholomew's Hospital located at Smithfield in London," he said. "Interestingly, it's the oldest remaining hospital in the United Kingdom, founded in 1123."
He met his wife, a fellow GP, in their final year of medical school. "In fact we met on the cardiology ward. A matter of the heart, one might say. We married in 1972 as soon as we qualified."
"We left the UK in 1977 for Vanuatu where I spent three years a district medical officer. In 1980 we moved to New Zealand - initially for six months - and behold we stayed on. We thought it would be a good place to bring up our family."
The couple worked as locums for six months in New Zealand before settling in Te Awamutu where they worked together from 1980 to 2003. In 1985 they set up the Mahoe Med practice which, just like Oto Med, also belongs to the Pinnacle MHN network.
"We bought an old house and the two of us set up practice. Later we expanded and took on two doctors, both pf whom are still at Mahoe Med today," he said.
The desire for more travel took over so Bob and his wife bought a campervan in 2003 spending 10 years locuming in New Zealand and in the UK. "A highlight was visiting the Orkney Islands off the top off Scotland every year for 10 years. We love that part of the world."
He speaks only fondly of his career. "Life in general practice has been very good. I have multiple UK friends who qualified in England and stayed in the National Health Service (NHS), then couldn't wait to leave their career as soon as they turned 60. Here in New Zealand it's been a good system.
"I've enjoyed it all. One highlight is maternity practice, which used to very much be a family doctor experience. It was a joy to look after families from the cradle to the grave," he said.
In fact, Dr le Quesne has frequently looked after generations of one family. "I've looked after a lot of children of the people I delivered. That, for me, is the joy of general practice: the long association with families."
Pinnacle Incorporated board chairman Frank Cullen has acknowledged Dr le Quesne for the "many years of commitment and service he has shown to patients, the practice team, and his community during over the years."
"It is my great pleasure on behalf of the Pinnacle members and the executive committee to thank Bob for the dedication, commitment and the passion for general practice he has shown, and we wish him all the very best."
Now that he's retiring, he's often asked the question "what are you going to do?"
"I tell them that I have been 'doing stuff' for decades - so now I am going to enjoy. Just enjoy life," he said.