Caring surgeon humbled by award
He is known as the "gentle giant" of Southland Hospital and has a surgery career that spans 43 years.
Dr Murray Pfeifer has been awarded the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' Rural Surgeon's Award for his commitment to medicine in Southland and Otago.
Pfeifer said he was honoured to be recognised by his peers, but humbled by the award too.
"Across Australasia there are hundreds of surgeons working outside a metropolitan setting and 99 per cent of them are providing high quality care to their patients and communities . . . any one of them would be equally worthy, if not more so than me - which is why I feel quite humble about it," he said.
Originally an Auckland boy, Pfeifer went to school with Invercargill's Mayor Tim Shadbolt at Remuera Primary School before migrating south to study medicine at Otago University.
Decades later, the two old school friends sat at the head table of Saturday's award ceremony in Dunedin, where the mayor gave the guest speech and Pfeifer received the prestigious rural surgeons award.
Despite his Auckland heritage, and early in his career an urge to return to the north, Pfeifer has spent almost all his career based at Southland - the place he now fondly calls home. "A lot of the friends I made in Southland were very special people, indefinable, they just sort of stood out," he said.
It was those friends that nominated Pfeifer for both his commitment to patients but also for his mentoring to young surgeons.
Long-term colleague and friend Dr Julian Speight said Pfeifer was the quintessential general surgeon.
"[He] provides surgical cover for subspecialty interest as wide ranging as breast and endocrine, vascular, paediatric surgery . . . Not to mention he is the bread and butter of general surgery."
Speight said Pfeifer continues to teach medical students with the same vigour and enthusiasm he did 30 years ago.
Someone who knows his qualities is Southland Hospital nurse Jan Jacobson who has worked with Pfeifer for more than 35 years. She said he has always cared for his patients.
"He is really caring, he goes out of his way to work for his patients," she said.
She said his dedication and commitment to ensuring the people of Southland have access to a high standard of professional health care makes him a worthy recipient of the prestigious award.
Since the college was established in 1927, only eight people have received the Rural Surgeons Award.
The Southland Times