Issue 3 • 2021
spotlight on red theatre curtain

Member spotlight: Dr Paul Tomlinson

Image Dr Paul  Tomlinson
Dr Paul Tomlinson grew up in Hamilton and went to medical school in Auckland. He worked throughout Aotearoa New Zealand during his initial paediatric training and then travelled to the United Kingdom where he worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. He then moved to Guy's Hospital where he undertook research and training in children’s renal medicine. He has an interest in diabetes and endocrinology and has been able to practise in these areas, as well as undertaking a career in general paediatrics. He has also been a College Director of Paediatric Education.
Thinking about what inspired him to become a doctor, Dr Tomlinson shares, “I grew up in a medical family and my father was a paediatrician in Hamilton. I ended up working as his registrar at one point. My inspiration was from within my family, but also from literature I was reading. I started university in mathematics and physics, but subsequently became drawn to more humanitarian ideas and dealing with people.”
After working in Southland for 30 years, Dr Tomlinson reflects on his career and gives gratitude to those he works closely with.
“We have a small unit and for most of my career, I have worked with Dr Ian Shaw. We have seen many trends in practice change over this time. Our unit is very well appointed and well situated within the hospital and the community. We have a wonderful team of nursing staff, and we are very well supported by our clinical and Allied Health colleagues. It is easy to get things done here.” Dr Tomlinson is passionate about medicine and the community he has served for three decades. It is this personal approach to his patients and dedication to the community that has helped Dr Tomlinson deliver quality care.
“My standout experiences have undoubtedly been my patients, many of whom have been with me for their entire childhood lives. There is an amazing opportunity to develop close bonds with families. Since we are geographically a long way from anywhere else, it has been necessary to have a broad skillset, backed up by the network of specialist colleagues around the country.”
When asked about his professional highlights, two came to mind.
“The first is the work I have done with medicines assessment in Aotearoa New Zealand. Firstly, with Pharmac and secondly, with the Medicines Assessment Advisory Committee for Medsafe who are responsible for medicine regulation in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“The second highlight is the work I have done in assisting bright, young doctors to become future paediatricians with the educational program here at Southland Hospital and also coaching RACP Clinical Examination candidates who have previously worked for us in Southland towards success in that examination. Consequently, there are quite a few Aotearoa New Zealand paediatricians who began or developed their career with us.”
We asked Dr Tomlinson about the challenges he’s overcome throughout his career, and he is very humble about his attitude towards his work.
“I really do not consider that I’ve had many challenges to overcome. I generally just do what is needed to be done, with the re-establishment of a department after I was the most senior paediatrician here within 12 months of starting. Teaching has been a very important part of my time at undergraduate, postgraduate and collegial level. It is a commitment I really enjoy but is often unrecognised by larger institutions.”
Exploring nature and making the most of his surroundings has helped Dr Tomlinson achieve work-life balance throughout the busy, fast-paced life physicians know well.
“I have also taken the opportunity to be part of the lower South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand, an area of outstanding natural beauty. I enjoy skiing, visiting the lakes and rivers around Queenstown and Wanaka and more recently travelling around the southern beaches. There is a sense of wilderness here.
“Southland has a very active cycling community and for a while, had the only indoor cycling velodrome in the country. My children started racing bicycles, and naturally, I followed them, becoming a National Commissaire, something that has persisted beyond their own competitive days.”
© 2021 The Royal Australasian College of Physicians