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New Zealand’s first formally trained paediatric surgeon retires

Dr Stu Brown finishing up his last surgery at Waikato Hospital in December 2015

He is best known for his dedication, and in fact he tried to retire eight years ago, but for Waikato Hospital paediatric surgeon Dr Stu Brown is “irreplaceable”.

He is the first formally trained paediatric surgeon in New Zealand and in his 40 years with Waikato Hospital he has done thousands of surgeries. Most notable was the surgery he performed with Dr Aska Kukkady, to separate conjoined twins, Abbey and Sarah Hose, back in 2004. The grueling 22-hour-procedure was hailed an international success.

“There has been enormous changes in the hospital over the years. And I have seen this hospital grow over the years into the place it is now,” said Dr Brown.

“I’m very ambivalent about giving up, it is so much a part of my life, however it came home to me a few weeks ago when I went to renew my passport. The man said why don’t you wait a couple of years and you can get a 10 year long one, when I told my partner she said well that should see me out.”

Dr Brown’s departure has been hard to talk about for many staff, as he has been the pillar of paediatric surgery at Waikato Hospital for the past four decades.

“He is always low key and doesn’t draw attention to himself,” said colleague Dr Aska Kukkady.

“He is the ultimate for us, a brilliant surgeon.”

At his farewell lunch, many commented on his dedication to public health.

“He is always here for us, on many occasions he has canceled private lists just to be here for the public and staff,” said Dr Kukkady.

His gentility and humility is not just revered among his colleagues but also his patients.

“They just love him, he is down to earth and is able to find a way to connect with anyone at any level whether that be a patient, their family, a nurse a house surgeon – whomever,” said charge nurse Heather Glenn.

For many, they will know of Dr Brown who assisted in separating the conjoined twins 11 years ago.

Head surgeon on that case Dr Kukkady said it was his best memory of ‘Stu’.

“When we separated the conjoin twins, having him next to me was the most reassuring thing – he let me do it but he offered me the confidence,” he said

“That is really it, we always feel more confident when he is standing next to us.”

Even though Dr Brown has officially retired he has left on a conditional basis.

“You say you are leaving but the condition of you leaving is that you are available on the phone for us because we have counted on you.”

Dr Brown said this has occupied a whole chunk of his life but the time has come, and he was privileged to have worked with so many talented people.

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