Peter Anyon was born in Wellington and educated at Wellington College before attending the Otago University Medical School where he completed the degree of B Med Sci during his undergraduate years. This was an indication of his life-long interest in medical research and his skeptical nature that always asked questions of accepted wisdom, whatever the field of endeavour.
After graduation he went into general practice, initially on the west coast of New Zealand and then in Johnsonville, Wellington and later in Lower Hutt. The challenges and pleasures of this area of medicine stayed with him for the rest of his life. He spent 40 years in general practice until his retirement from fulltime activity in 1993, but continued to do locum work for some years afterwards. He fought hard and successfully to have general practice recognized along with other specialties by the New Zealand Medical Council and served for two years as the President of the New Zealand College of General Practitioners from 1980 to 1982.
The training of young postgraduate students in the complexity of general practice was dear to his heart. In the early 1970s he and Dr Humphrey Rainey set up a formal training scheme. His paediatric practice at Hutt Hospital was used as an important source of experience along with apprenticeship type attachments to local general practices. The scheme rapidly spread to the rest of New Zealand and has continued since.
In the late 1950s, Peter Anyon went to England where he trained in general paediatrics and completed his MRCP. On returning to New Zealand, he took up a post of part-time paediatrician at Hutt Hospital in 1962, while continuing in his role in a local general practice. For ten years from 1966, he was virtually the only paediatrician. His lateral thinking came to the fore when he recognized the worth of an experienced children's trained nurse from the United Kingdom who was unable to register in NZ because she did not fit into a suitable Nursing Council category. He managed to overcome this problem and Hilda Dresdner became an essential part of the Children's Ward at Hutt Hospital for the next 14 years where her skill and expertise were valued by nurses, doctors and families. Peter's encouragement and trust of other health professionals was clear.
The welfare of children was always his primary aim and lead to his claim that 'the only good children's ward was an empty one'. He pushed hard for continuing care arrangements in the community to encourage early discharge, as well as prompt assessment to prevent admissions in the first place. He was later involved in health clinics at one of the local Marae.
Because his younger brother was handicapped he was also especially aware of the needs of handicapped children. Indeed, his parents, Harold and Margaret Anyon, formed the Intellectually Handicapped Parents' Association in 1949 to obtain educational services for these children. This later became the New Zealand Society for Intellectually Handicapped Children.
His research interests continued throughout his career with some 20 published papers, including early studies on cow's milk as a cause of occult bleeding and iron deficiency in infants. He was also involved with studies on asthma and wheeze in young children. He wrote a weekly medical column in the Evening Post newspaper and this lead to a book on child health for parents.
He was no stranger to controversy. He lobbied hard, eventually with success, to have the activities of the Medical Council more open to both the profession and the public. When the adolescent ward at Hutt Hospital was threatened with closure for cost- cutting reasons, he very rapidly declared his opinions in the public media and was forthright in his support for the community campaign to keep the unit open.
His family was always an important part of his life. His wife Bunty, a nurse, gave him full support and it was not unknown for a junior doctor from the hospital to hear comments on the other end of the phone such as 'what did we use for that child's rash the other day?' He was fully engaged with their five children, encouraging them and supporting them through difficult times and enjoying with pride their many successes. One of his granddaughters has continued the family involvement with Hutt Hospital Children's Ward as a nurse.
Apart from his family, he also found time for gardening, playing squash and reading as well as studying the attributes of red wine with his friends.
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