This modest family doctor, providing essential services in a small community in the Far North of New Zealand didn’t think he did anything out of the ordinary. But for 14 years he’s run a free weekly medical clinic in a tiny poor community of Ahipara, which has a high proportion of Maori patients and more that it’s fair share of poverty and disadvantage.
This is the story reported in the Herald Newspaper:
Dr Smit, who received the Queens’s Service Medal for services to health, said he did not “particularly” do anything that other doctors in the community didn’t, and he was part of a team.
His citation, however, made note of the free clinic he has provided from a converted garage at Ahipara every week for 14 years, and where he remains until every patient has been seen, as well as playing his role at the Kaitaia Health Centre and contributing to the after-hours service at Kaitaia Hospital.
He was recognised, the citation said, for his energy, empathy, commitment, his ability to cross cultural barriers and willingness to put the needs of others first.
Dr Smit said the Ahipara clinic was well patronised, and was a worthy alternative to a weekly round of golf. (He’s not actually a golfer but does enjoy fishing and jogging ).
Receiving the QSM was an “absolute honour”, he said, adding it was humbling to be nominated by members of the community and his peers.
Born in South Africa (but now avowedly ‘tangata whenua’ – person belonging to the land in NZ), he worked for the Anglo American mining company in Botswana’s Kalahari Desert for eight years before emigrating to New Zealand with his wife, Nan, and their family 17 years ago. Initially he worked as an anaesthetist and in medicine at Kaitaia Hospital, but 14 years ago joined the Kaitaia Health Centre, when Dr Tom Young retired.