When Dr Peter Chapman-Smith came to Whangarei in 1977, it was for his love of the ocean and diving. But then he got busy catching babies and building from scratch a successful medical clinic which brought appearance medicine to Northland among many other feats. Fast-forward 40 years and he's finally returning to the passion which led him here in the first place. "I've had a long and varied career," he muses. "I was absolutely passionate about medicine and still am but it's time to slow down while I've still got my health."
Dr Chapman-Smith has been practicing medicine since 1976 and, in addition to working as an anaesthetist at Whangarei Hospital, was a family doctor for 24 years. This was back in the day when the role included obstetrics and he delivered around 150 babies per year for 20 years. Dr Chapman-Smith was the last GP to give up obstetrics in Whangarei. During this time, he also carried out aviation, diving and sports medicine. Dr Chapman-Smith feels privileged to have practiced in the days when general practice involved treating patients from start to finish. "I delivered babies and provided end of life care. I was involved with the family very closely. It was hugely satisfying and I felt privileged to be delivering this care."
Based at the Maunu Medical Centre since 1982, Dr Chapman-Smith purchased the house next door and renovated it to become the Skin and Vein Clinic in 1997. Branching out from general practice, he began treating varicose veins, pioneering nonsurgical treatment using laser technology. With Northland having the highest rate of melanoma in the world, he developed an interest in treating skin cancer, and brought the Mole Map franchise to Northland.
Then came appearance medicine – a term Dr Chapman-Smith himself coined. "I started the first appearance medicine clinic in Northland. People said: 'Goodness me, in Northland?!' Now it's quite common. We don't over-treat people – we're very successful at maintaining a natural refreshed look, something we're very proud of."
Appearance medicine will continue at his Skin and Vein clinic with two experienced nurses taking over treatment. Over the last three years, he has treated over 250 people using stem cell therapy.
"Stem cell treatment has been done for decades in animals so it's not new but it's relatively new to humans. It's proven to be a very exciting and innovative therapy, which has helped many people. It's fascinating, changing lives and has been the most dramatic aspect of my career."
"However, I'm slowing down, which is unusual for me. I'm taking more of a managerial role to make time for my family. I have a granddaughter who's six months and two more due very soon. I just love being a grandpa.
"The reason I came to Whangarei in the first place was because of my love the sea and diving. It's time to slow down and have a life - to enjoy Northland's playground with my family.
"I've come to the end of a long career and I'm proud of it. I'm a proud Northlander."