University of Otago Otago Medical School Alumni Association

Obituary - Dr Patrick Joseph Farry

17 March 1944 - 9 October 2009

Dr Pat Farry, Director of the University of Otago's extraordinarily successful and innovative rural medical immersion programme, died suddenly this month while undertaking a short GP locum in Twizel.

Dr Patrick Farry

Dr Patrick Joseph Farry

Dr Farry was a visionary medical educationist, an inspiring teacher, a general medical practitioner par excellence, and a champion for rural medicine.

He was a Fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, and was made a Distinguished Fellow in 2006. In June 2009 he was recognised for his immense contribution to rural medicine when he was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Dr Farry was born and raised in Gore. He graduated with his medical degree from Otago in 1967. After an initial interest in surgery, he acceded to general practice and moved to Queenstown in 1971 where he built the former Queenstown Medical Centre, one of the first medical centres to open in the country. His 35 years of invaluable Wakatipu practice experience fed his huge passion for rural medicine, something for which he developed an international reputation.

Dr Farry devoted much of his career to successfully advocating and lobbying for improvements and funding for rural medicine. He lobbied hard with successive government health ministers for funding for the now highly successful rural immersion programme (where fifth-year medical students spend a whole year in a rural centre). Since its inception in 2007 the programme has grown from just six students to 20. As an educational exercise the programme has been extremely successful.

As long ago as 1980 Dr Farry began travelling to Dunedin to lecture in the Department of General Practice and in 1990 was made a Senior Lecturer. It is estimated that he travelled from his home in Queenstown to the University in Dunedin 1600 times in his career. 

Among his other achievements Dr Farry was a former Regional Director of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners' registrar training programme, Chair of the College's Education Committee and more recently sat on the board of the College's new Rural Faculty. He was recognised by the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network for his contribution to rural medicine in 2007 with the Peter Snow Memorial Award. In 2006 New Zealand Doctor gave him the Buzz Lightyear Award for GPs who go "to infinity and beyond" in the line of duty.

His death is an irreplaceable loss to his family and friends, the University, and to rural medicine. The Department of General Practice and Rural Health is bereft of a colleague, a friend and a mentor.  

Dr Farry is survived by his wife Sue and their three sons.

By Associate Professor Jim Reid
Deputy Dean and Head of General Practice and Rural Health
Dunedin School of Medicine