Graham Smart

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Graham Frederick Smart MNZM, FRACS
8 November 1915 - December 2011
General Surgeon

Born in Croydon, Surrey in 1915. The first serious event in Graham's life happened when aged 16, he developed osteomyelitis in his left upper tibia. He spent long periods in hospital over the next year. Underwent multiple operations and was left with ligamentous damage and an unstable knee joint. This experience turned his head to a career in medicine from radio-engineering (the latter remaining a lifelong hobby).

He trained at Guy's Hospital qualifying in Jan 1940. As bombing was expected in London the Hospital and Medical School had been largely moved to Turnbridge Wells, furthermore all London students, being a vital "manpower" group, were moved to take their final examinations in Sheffield.

After his intern years at Guildford, he decided upon a surgical career. He had been called up for Military service but was "apologetically rejected because of my knee disability".

From 1941-1947 he received a very broad training in general surgery, a year spent tutoring in Anatomy at Guy's and the last four years as RSO at Ipswich, Suffolk, obtaining his FRCS in 1944. He had also married, had a family of three boys. His ability was such that he was considered by his peers to be ready to apply for Consultant posts.

Life in the UK was still grim, the Dominions looked attractive. NZ had the greatest appeal, so armed with glowing references, the family emigrated. He was appointed to the position of Medical Superintendent and Surgeon at Westland Hospital, Hokitika in 1948. During this period his marriage failed. Looking for a fresh start and hearing of Marlborough's steady growth and more favourable climate he transferred to a similar post at Wairau Hospital in 1950 (where he served faithfully for the next 30 years). Soon after his arrival he married Jean, his present wife, a South African nurse who took over the upbringing of his three sons. Four lovely daughters were added in short order.

Graham, a meticulous, organised rather imperturbable man, quickly reorganised and expanded the hospital. He inspired great loyalty from all the staff and with the support of the other senior administrators, the Matron, Secretary and Accountant as well as the Board, decisions were made quickly and actions taken - in contrast to the bureaucracy of health care today. The Senior Medical Staff were also encouraged to further the development of their specialty interests. Together with the administrative burden Graham managed to fit in the work of a full-time surgeon, never shirking the demanding acute roster. His particular interest and love was in Orthopaedics in which he was ably supported by the weekly visits of the Wellington orthopods, Wyn Beasley being the first.

The Hospital earned the respect of the Community for being a safe place, served by a happy staff and knowing its limitations. During his tenure, he personally played a large part in the design of the new Clinical Services Block, a new Ward block and a Theatre complex, the latter bearing his name.

Medicine however was only a part of his life. Leaving promptly at 5pm, he took on a new persona. A devoted, much loved family man, he was always available to support their various needs.

Service to the Arts and the Community also filled a large part of his and Jean's spare time. They both became life members of the Diabetic Society. A keen clarinettist in his early days, Graham was Chairman of the Chamber of Music Society from 1959-1970, later patron; President of the Repertory Theatre 1961-1969 and Life Member from 1977. He also directed 17 plays and took leading roles in many others.

In 2003 he was awarded the MNZM for services to medicine and the community.

In their early years, they bought two acres of beautiful bush in the Queen Charlotte Sound with an old farmhouse on a private beach and with road access. Retiring in 1980, they built a new house high up on a promontory, with a 360 view over the length of the Sound. He and Jean had thirty one years of retirement to enjoy their expanding family, fishing, boating, cryptic crosswords and to indulge their many other interests.

His funeral was simple. Typically he had left precise instructions about the format, the music, the tributes, the coffin of pine with rope handles. A Shakespearian devotee, his leave taking was accompanied by a reading from the "Tempest".

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision
The cloud capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

John Inder FRCS, FRACS