Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Our people at the Rural Medical Immersion Programme (RMIP)

Dr Branko Sinja teaching RMIP students
RMIP Course Director Dr Branko Sijnja (right), teaching RMIP students.

Dr Branko Sijnja

RMIP Course Director
Tel 64 3 479 7098
Email branko.sijnja@otago.ac.nz

I was born in Holland a couple of years after the end of the Second World War and emigrated as a child with my family to New Zealand in 1951. We lived in various places in New Zealand: Glenbervie (near Whangarei), Ngaumu (near Masterton), Rotorua, Waitarere (near Levin), Bulls and Palmerston North. All my secondary education was in Palmerston North Boys’ High School. Although I wanted to be a bus driver, I somehow ended up graduating MBChB in 1973.

I have enjoyed being a general practitioner in Balclutha for 34 years and have been pleased to be able to contribute to my community through involvement with the health reforms of the early 1990s that culminated in the setting up of the community owned and operated hospital and health centre in Balclutha, Clutha Health First. This has now evolved to a fine integrated community health centre. I have worked in hospital practice in Palmerston North, Dannevirke, Balclutha, Perth and Bridge of Earn in Scotland. I have always retained an interest in rural hospital medicine and had a longer hospital job in Balclutha, initially full time and then part time since I entered general practice in 1980.

I enjoy health governance and have been a member of the Board that manages Clutha Health First since its inception in 1998 and on the Southern District Health Board from 2004. I have been a member of the New Zealand Medical Association all my working life and am proud to be its current President. I have been involved in implementation panels to aspects of the health policies of both the National and Labour Coalition.

I have been teaching medical students since 2000 and from 2009 I have been directing the Rural Medical Immersion Programme of the University of Otago Medical School where 20 students spend the whole of the fifth year of their MBChB course immersed in smaller communities. This is now my passion and I am convinced of the value of education in a generalist context as found in provincial and rural New Zealand. I am committed to the integration of primary and secondary health care in our rural and provincial communities.

Beth Chisholm

RMIP Administrator / Personal Assistant to the Director
Tel 64 3 479 9252
Email rmip.administrator@otago.ac.nz

I am Dunedin born and bred and, after completing my high school at St Hilda’s, I attended the University of Otago and gained my Bachelor of Science majoring in Anatomy and Structural Biology and Zoology.

After five years living and working in Brisbane, Australia my husband and I decided to return home to Dunedin with our new twin daughters. I started working at the University of Otago College of Education in 2011, moving to the Department of General Practice and Rural Health in late 2014.

When I'm not at work, I enjoy exploring Dunedin’s beaches and tracks with my family and our puppy, Rosie. I also enjoy weekends away in Central Otago or Naseby.

Dr Rebecca Canner

RMIP Regional Coordinator for Clutha
Tel 64 3 479 5776
Email docbec@gmail.com

I was born and raised in the US and got a degree in Music Therapy before deciding to go to medical school. In 1997, I received my MDCM degree at McGill University in Montreal. After graduation, I decided to pursue a career in rural Family Medicine. I did my post-graduate (residency) training in the state of Maine and then moved on to Montana where I did a variety of things including hospital and emergency medicine in a small, remote towns, working in a community health centre, and running my own private practice in a relatively large town of 30,000 people.

During that time, I did some clinical teaching and became very involved in the politics of medicine. I was the president of the Montana Academy of Family Physicians in 2009, during the time that Barack Obama was attempting to reform healthcare in the US. I was very involved in pushing for increased attention to and funding for the issues of the healthcare disparities and workforce shortages in rural and underserved areas.

All of this has set me up for this very interesting role as a Site Coordinator for the Rural Medical Immersion Programme. In 2011, I decided I wanted to have an "adventure" and leave the insanity of the US healthcare system. Somehow, Branko got hold of my CV, rang me and offered me a job which combined the coordinator role with taking over his General Practice in Balclutha. Big shoes to fill, but being keen and adventurous, I decided to give it a go and here I am!

In addition to enjoying the challenges of working and teaching in rural New Zealand, I am loving living near the ocean in Kaka Point (in the Catlins) and enjoying exploring New Zealand with my partner and daughter.

Dr Jez Leftley

RMIP Regional Coordinator for Southland
Email jezleftley@gmail.com

I am originally from London and went to University in Bristol to study Avionics Engineering. I rapidly realized that this was not where my passion lay and so I left with the aim of getting in to Medical School. I returned to London to study Medicine and was heavily involved in the student community at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, holding several positions in the Boat Club over the years and became the President of the Student Union.

I first came to New Zealand in 2001 on my elective and fell in love with the lifestyle & country then. However when I went back to the UK to do my finals, circumstances meant that the opportunity to return did not arise. I initially worked in London, then Plymouth and Kent, before returning to London to do my GP training. During my time as a GP registrar, I was becoming disillusioned with suburban General Practice and continued to work at the weekends as an Accident & Emergency Registrar. When I completed my training, I was planning on switching to train in Emergency Medicine or Paediatrics. However, I saw an advert for a rural GP post on the West Coast of Scotland, which included running a small rural hospital with an A&E department. I therefore moved to Campbeltown with my wife and was a partner in that practice for nearly seven years.

During my time in Campbeltown, I became a tutor for rotating final year medical students from the University of Dundee, as well as setting up and tutoring the Kintyre Rural Fellowship Program, which was part of a scheme run by National Education for Scotland, to give newly qualified GPs more exposure to and training in Rural Medicine. I also became the Locality Clinical Director for Kintyre and sat on the Argyll & Bute Health Boards Management Committee, as well as being the Remote & Rural Representative on the Scottish Air Ambulance Clinical Forum.

During this time, we had two children and I was finding that my work commitments were inhibiting family life. We came to New Zealand again in 2011 for a family wedding in Queenstown and the time away from work gave a good opportunity to reflect on our work life balance. We decided that the time had come to make the move down under. We were keen to come to the Central Otago region and I was keen not to lose the acute side of medicine that I enjoy. When the opportunity came to join the Lakes District Hospital in 2012 as a Senior Medical Officer, we moved to Queenstown. Since then, I have gained a Postgraduate Certificate in Clinician Performed Ultrasound, Fellowship of the Division of Rural Hospital Medicine and a third son!

I feel with the ongoing development of the specialty of Rural Hospital Medicine, it is a very exciting time to be working in New Zealand in that field. I constantly enjoy the variety & challenges thrown at me by the acute side of Rural Healthcare.

Dr Emma Boddington

RMIP Regional Coordinator for West Coast
Email emma.boddington@westcoastdhb.health.nz

I was born in Leeds in the north of England (population 750 000). I went to local comprehensive and always dreamed of being doctor and living on a farm with my own horse for as long as I can remember.

I gained my medical degree from Southampton in 1999, where I worked as junior doctor before joining the Wessex G.P. training programme. During a sabbatical to Greymouth, I met my husband and also fell in love with the West Coast.

We went back to the UK where I completed my training, gaining additional diplomas in child health, obstetrics and gynaecology, and reproductive healthcare. I have worked in Greymouth for the last 10 years as GP and Family Planning doctor.

Dr David Heard

RMIP Regional Coordinator for Wairarapa
Email: dheard@cartertonmed.co.nz

I grew up in the Wairarapa where I attended primary school prior to my secondary schooling at St Patrick’s College, Silverstream in Wellington. I spent a year as an exchange student in Japan when I was 17 and then returned to complete a B.Sc at Victoria University in Wellington. From there I went to Auckland to complete my medical training, then to Rotorua Hospital for a four-year hospital training stint, completing a Diploma in Paediatrics while I was there. Following that I did my GP training in Waikanae and Dannevirke. I then travelled overseas for 18 months to the UK for a belated OE, spending a year in Oxford with my wife and two very young boys.

After that I returned to my current position as a partner in the Carterton Medical Centre where I have been since the beginning of 2004. Last year I was one of six Wairarapa GPs attached to the hospital A&E providing some after hours cover.

I am married to Nicole and we have four boys aged 4-15 years; I enjoy all sports especially golf and tennis. I have recently completed a Diploma in Sports Medicine and I look after the Wairarapa Bush rugby team and I have also been coaching one of my boys’ soccer teams. We live on a small farm block just outside of Carterton. In fact, we have the Carterton sign built into our front paddock. I really enjoy teaching Trainee Interns and PGY2s that we have had attached to our practice. The Carterton Medical Centre is teaching RMIP, Trainee Interns, First Year House Surgeons and Registrars.

Dr Marta Kroo

RMIP Regional Coordinator for Tararua
Email martakroo@sbcglobal.net

I was born in Hungary and received a Doctor of Medicine Diploma from the Semmelweis University of Medical Science in Budapest. After completing my Internal and Occupational Medicine training I moved to the United States of America, where I did Family Medicine training and practiced as a board certified family doctor for 15+ years. I initially came to New Zealand for a working holiday in 2009 - since then I have become a New Zealand enthusiast, kiwi at heart, hence I have extended my stay for as long as life allows! During my training in the USA I became interested in teaching, which I continue to enjoy in New Zealand. I love learning from and learning together with students; helping them to gain active listening and clinical skills to become excellent doctors of the future generation.

Dr David (Buzz) Boothman-Burrell

RMIP Regional Coordinator for Marlborough
Email buzzburrell@springlandshealth.co.nz

Buzz Burrell was born in a small market town in Lancashire, North West England. His childhood was spent by the sea-side sailing, representing his school in cross-country running and small bore shooting, and riding motorbikes.

His passion for life and people took him to London to study Medicine, spending an elective in rural Bangladesh where he worked in remote solo practice, and met his New Zealander wife, Lauren.

He qualified in 1986, and subsequently trained in internal medicine, attaining Membership of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in 1991. He won the inaugural Glaxo-Welcome respiratory research fellowship in Dunedin, New Zealand, and was elected Lecturer of the Year in 1993.

The excitement and challenge of remote rural family medicine saw Buzz change codes, and on completing his research he resurrected a small practice on the West Coast of the South Island, establishing remote clinics and emergency services for the second largest remote area of New Zealand. Within four years Buzz and his partner were elected Runners up New Zealanders of the Year. He was awarded fellowship of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners in 2002.

Buzz has also experienced remote rural practice in Western Australia, and the Chatham Islands. Buzz is a Royal New Zealand College of GP registrar trainer, and senior lecturer with the University of Otago. He has always been involved in innovation, establishing a new centre for the final year Rural Medical Immersion Programme; and working with Curtin University Western Australia on a novel flow meter for asthmatics.

He is a columnist for GP Pulse magazine, has appeared on radio and television, he has written his first yet-to-be-published book, and has written and produced amateur dramatic productions. Buzz and Lauren have three daughters, and only spare time is absorbed by a bach in the Marlborough Sounds, and a small hobby farm where Buzz has lost count of how many animals his kids have.

Dr John Hillock

RMIP Assessments Coordinator – Queenstown
Email john.hillock@otago.ac.nz

I have been a rural GP in Queenstown since 1979 and have been involved in GP education (both under- and postgraduate) for the last twenty years or so. I was Director of the postgraduate rural GP education programme from 2002–2007 and was a regional coordinator for this programme from 2007 to 2009. My GP work is now as a locum in Central Otago, but I am still based in Queenstown. When not working, I enjoy several outdoor pursuits, including chasing that elusive trout, preferably out of cellphone range.

Rural Medical Immersion Programme teachers and administrators
RMIP teachers and administrators, 2013