He’s played a part in the births of hundreds of babies, but after 44 years Waikato gynaecology and obstetrics specialist Alastair Haslam is hanging up his white coat.
But not before he was honoured with Emeritus Consultant status – a privilege only given to six Waikato Hospital doctors to date, none of whom have worked in Women’s Health.
Dr Haslam received the Emeritus Consultant Award yesterday afternoon in front of about 60 friends, family and colleagues, at Waikato Hospital.
At the ceremony, Health Waikato chief operating officer Jan Adams acknowledged his family as having put up with a lot of time away from their partner and father due to the call of duty and thanked them for that.
“You have been a pleasure to work with and have been a strong leader and great role model who has always performed over and above what was required of you,” she said.
Today is Dr Haslam’s last day with Waikato District Health Board, where he has spent most of his working life since graduating from Otago University School of Medicine in 1970.
He describes his job over the past four decades delivering babies as challenging and interesting.
“And never dull. And if it is dull, it’s not for very long,” he says.
“While there are some practical skills required, there is a whole of a lot of personal skills required too.”
Health Waikato chief operating officer Jan Adams acknowledged his family as having put up with a lot of time away from their partner and father due to the call of duty and thanked them for that.
“You have been a pleasure to work with and have been a strong leader and great role model who has always performed over and above what was required of you.”
Dr Haslam is currently working out of his third Delivery Suite at Waikato Hospital and estimates there have been more than 100,000 babies born in his time here.
He said the changes he has witnessed in obstetrics, in other areas of the hospital and in health in general have been significant over the past four decades and names a big one as technology.
Dr Haslam recounts the days of working without cellphones, how much freedom they provided for those days and nights on-call when they were introduced, and how his first cellphone purchase in 1989 cost him a whopping $3500.
“I was on the junior staff when the first laparoscopy was done here,” he says.
“And colposcopy wasn’t done here in the 1970s either, but it’s been part of every trainee’s brief since the 1980s and 90s.
“And of course the National Women’s Enquiry changed everything for all of us in 1989.
“That said a lot of things about the treatment of patients in general. Our specialty got it, but there would have been other specialties that had to deal with patient backlash as well.”
Dr Haslam said another big change in the health field over the years has been the advanced skill set of registrars and nurses.
“You really feel it these days if registrars and nursing staff are not confident or up to the job. Their skillset has really had to change over the years.
“The changes and advances have kept me challenged and interested in my career right up to retirement – that’s saying something.”
He says one of his greatest pleasures professionally, has been working with the 100 or so registrars who have come through Women’s Health in his time, and watching them go on to become “very talented and useful people”.
So what will a man who has worked night and day, delivering babies in straightforward, precarious and sometimes tragic circumstances for the last 44 years do with himself come Saturday 3 May and beyond, after his last day at Waikato Hospital?
The father of four is chuffed to have all his adult children back in New Zealand and says he has a lot of family time to make up.
“I’ve also got a property that’s still a wilderness,” he says.
“I’ve got a whole lot of family history and papers to sort out. Maybe I’ll take up learning a foreign language again.
“Then there is plenty of travel to do – lots of places in New Zealand I haven’t been to, and there are lots of books I haven’t read and a lot of literature I haven’t come to terms with – lots more Shakespeare,” he said.
A snapshot of Dr Haslam’s career
- 1970-71 Rotating house surgeon at Waikato Hospital
- 1971-72 Registrar in Obstetrics & Gynaecology at Waikato Hospital
- 1973 Registrar in Surgery (six months), Waikato Hospital; Registrar in Renal Medicine (six months), Waikato Hospital (MRCOG elective training).
- 1974-75 Registrar in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National Women’s Hospital, St Helen’s and Middlemore Hospital, Auckland
- 1975-77 Registrar in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Saint Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth, United Kingdom
- 1977-78 Senior Registrar in Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Saint Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth, United Kingdom
- May 1978 to date Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Waikato Hospital – full-time to November 1980, part-time November 1980 to date
- 1981-89 Clinical lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Auckland
- 1998-2008 Clinical director, Obstetrics & Gynaecology Unit, Waikato Hospital (under various titles)
- Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists fellow
- Waikato Health Memorabilia Trust member
- Received the Pollock and Milne Award, Waikato Postgraduate Medical Society 1983
- The Mercia Barnes Trust member since 1996 and chairman until 2011
- Received the distinguished Service Medal from RANZCOG in 2010
- Written more than 30 publications and presentations over the years on various subjects within obstetrics and gynaecology
- Awarded the Waikato Postgraduate Medical Society Prize for Essay, entitled: “Pregnancy and the Nephrotic Syndrome” in 1974
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