The essence of New Zealand is in those salt-of-the-earth rural people... I would've wilted and died in the cities
Overwhelmed and honoured to receive the Peter Snow Memorial Award, Kerikeri GP Grahame Jelley had to cut his acceptance speech short to avoid becoming a “blubbering mess”.
Receiving the award during the National Rural Health Conference dinner on 30 April was a very emotional time, Dr Jelley later told New Zealand Doctor Rata Aotearoa.
He was pleased to share the moment with his wife, Renene, who he describes as “a great rural nurse” and his rock through hard times.
Many tears were shed on his behalf, including by Mrs Jelley, who was comforted by previous recipient of the medal, nurse practitioner Tania Kemp, seated at the same table.
Dr Jelley was also afforded a traditional congratulation from a fellow conference attendee, from his home country of Zimbabwe.
He says he has been reflecting on previous recipients, particularly fellow GPs Martin London and Tim Malloy, who were mentors for him when he first arrived in New Zealand, “wet behind the ears”, from Zimbabwe.
“To be seen and stood up in the same acknowledgement as them… the words ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘privileged’ come to mind immediately,” he says.
Landing on New Zealand’s West Coast in 2000, Dr and Mrs Jelley encountered Ms Kemp, who became a mentor for her nurse friend.
“That’s the thing about rural communities, they’re a close-knit society.”
After working rurally for over 30 years, Dr Jelley says rural communities have one major commonality.
“I went from working in Zimbabwe with salt-of-the-earth people, to the West Coast, with salt-of-the-earth [rural] people, and the same in Bay of Plenty and Northland. The essence of New Zealand is in those people…I would’ve wilted and died in the cities.”
The award has also come during a journey of personal health challenges for Dr Jelley, “When you are being challenged by the unknown ahead of you, to know that your contribution has been meaningful makes that load far easier to bear.”
So at this particular time, he says it was uplifting.