Providing young trainee doctors an extra little bit of country flavour

08 Jun 2021

When young trainee doctors come to Whitianga for their rural GP experience, Des and Yvonne Gyde make sure they receive an extra little bit of country flavour.

For the past 20 years or so the couple have been welcoming into their home interns sent to Whitianga for their six weeks of GP work experience. Over that period, Des said they have billeted 31 trainee doctors, mostly from Auckland Medical School.

Some have only limited experience of country life while others, who are studying here from overseas, have virtually none whatsoever. While Mercury Bay Medical Centre (the “Whire House”) and the Doctor’s Surgery (the other medical practice that used to be in Whitianga) gave them valuable, real-life practice dealing with patients, Des and Yvonne showed them some other aspects of country living.

Des, a pilot, has taken them flying, shooting, milking cows, and quad bike riding while also letting them explore some of the wilder parts of the Coromandel Peninsula. “They have all said how much they appreciated the fact that we wanted them to have a complete ‘rural’ experience while staying with us,” said Des. “They all enjoyed the flying and they all enjoyed the milking, so we think we have added something a bit special to their time in Whitianga.

“When they come here, they get to see what a rural GP practice is all about, including time with the district nurses, the midwives and even with the local vet. “The whole idea is to see how rural practices actually operate because you have patients from country areas coming into the practice.

“They also spend time with St John Ambulance while they are in town and they get to appreciate better some of the vagaries of rural GP work that happen here but don’t necessarily happen in a city environment.”

Sometimes, the trainee doctors would go with the district nurse into the “back of beyond” to see a patient in need of medical treatment.

One of the highlights for the interns was always a visit to a local dairy farm to try their hand at milking the cows, but also to learn about how the animals are treated and the strict requirements for good health and hygiene practices for quality milk production.

When Des takes interns up for a flight, he always gives them a go at flying the plane. “It gives them a real buzz,” he said. “I did one just the other week. We flew down to Pauanui, had lunch there and flew back again.”

Des, who spent 22 years in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the final two years with the Aviation Medicine Unit at Hobsonville, said that as a result of their time in Whitianga, some of the interns went on to become GPs while others went into research, surgery, neuro-science and other medical fields. He felt that whatever career path they chose, their experience in Whitianga would have been very valuable.

All the interns fitted in very well, Des said, even those from overseas, perhaps because had already spent four years training at university in New Zealand, so understood our customs and cultures reasonably well.

A number of the trainees kept in touch over the years, even after they returned overseas. “It is always tremendous to hear from them, what they are doing in their careers, getting married, having children and so on,” Des said.

He said the interns were all very motivated and studious young people who would only take a break from their studies and assignments to socialise at the weekends.

As the trainee doctors were still students, Des and Yvonne charged them only a token rent to cover direct expenses. “That is also something we hope they would take away from their rural experience,” said Des, who is a volunteer driver for the Mercury Bay Community Bus, while also involved in the Mercury Bay RSA and the Whitianga Masonic Lodge. “They see people helping out others without expecting to be paid for it. We hope that is something they took on board from their time here, because not everything has a dollar value.”

Pictured: Des Gyde who - with his wife, Yvonne - has been hosting young trainee doctors coming to Whitianga for their rural GP experience for the past 20 years.