A Far North GP described by one of his peers as "the ultimate family doctor" has received one of the medical profession's highest honours.

Dr Graeme Fenton, of Moerewa Medical Services, was awarded the Eric Elder Medal at the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners conference in Auckland. One medal is awarded annually, usually to a rural GP.

College president Tim Malloy, of Wellsford Medical Centre, said Dr Fenton had cared for the Moerewa community since 1967, and was "the ultimate family doctor, an oracle of health politics, a visionary of rural care".

He had never forgotten the importance of the patient and whanau. He was a true generalist, using his skills to deliver babies or suture wounds, be it farmer, hunter or pet, he said.

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Bay of Islands GP Dr Chris Reid, chairman of the College's Northland faculty, said he couldn't think of a more deserving recipient.

"He started practising medicine in Moerewa before I was born. He's the definition of a family doctor. It's in his DNA," he said. He was constantly struck by the immense respect and loyalty generations of Moerewa patients showed for him.

"He's a good bloke. He's just quietly got on with it," he said.

Dr Fenton said the award had caught him by surprise.

"It was a bit unexpected. I've just been doing my job. It's been a pleasure working in Moerewa for 50 years," he said. . In 2013 he was the joint winner of the Peter Snow Memorial Award for the nation's top rural health professional.

Three other Northland doctors were honoured. Dr Stephen Main, a GP at Hokianga Health in Rawene, and Dr Andrew Miller, a GP at Bush Rd Medical Centre in Kamo and the chairman of the Manaia PHO, were named Distinguished Fellows, while Dr Lawrie Herd was awarded a Community Services Medal for his work to set up a skin cancer clinic at the Dargaville Medical Centre.

The Eric Elder Medal is named after a GP who worked in Tuatapere, Southland, for close to 60 years, regarded as the grandfather of vocational training for general practice in New Zealand.