Paediatrician active in Ma¯ori health
Leo Buchanan (Taranaki, Te ti Awa, Nga¯ti Ruanui) paediatrician, kauma¯tua: b Petone, Wellington, March 29, 1941; mMary English; 6d, 3s; d Wellington, October 11, 2017, aged 76.
Leo Francis John Buchanan was a well-known paediatrician, proud Ma¯ori, devout Catholic, rugby nut and a lover of art and music.
His daughter, Rachel Buchanan, says he helped thousands of Kiwi children flourish, particularly through his work to increase breastfeeding rates in Ma¯ori communities, save premature babies and help children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
He was also ‘‘a driving force behind the Ma¯ori trust that built low-cost apartments at Greta Point for descendants of Te Aro Pa¯’’, she says.
Leo was born in Petone in 1941. He was raised in Karori and educated at Auckland’s Sacred Heart College before going on to study medicine at the University of Otago, Dunedin.
It was there he met Mary English, oldest sister of former prime minister Bill English, and the pair married in 1966, before Leo went on to train at hospitals in Timaru, Whanganui and Invercargill and then to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
While in Australia Leo was appointed a senior paediatric registrar at the Queen Victoria Medical Hospital and he also worked at Grosvenor Diagnostic and Assessment Hospital in Sydney.
By 1972 Leo was back in New Zealand, where he became the first paediatrician appointed to Taranaki Base Hospital in New Plymouth.
In the early 1980s, a family car was a former hearse. Leo called it Morty, a play on the Latin word for death. He would encourage his children to lie down in the back then quickly sit up and start waving at other motorists. More than one driver received a terrible fright.
‘‘We provide a service that goes from the cradle to the grave,’’ he would say merrily as he parked
In 1992, Leo Buchanan moved back to Wellington, where he worked at Hutt Hospital until his retirement in 2011.
Morty outside the intensive care unit for very sick babies that he set up at Taranaki Base Hospital.
From New Plymouth, Leo went on to serve as medical superintendent and chief paediatrician at Masterton, and then on to Hamilton and finally, in 1992, back to Wellington, where he worked at Hutt Hospital until his retirement in 2011.
Two years later, as the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ Ma¯ori Health Committee’s foundational chair, Leo was the recipient of the Te Nga¯kau Ora award for services to Ma¯ori communities and health development.
He also received the John Sands medal for outstanding service to the college, Rachel says.
Leo was buried at new Taranaki wha¯nui Opau urupa in Makara with a Marist St Pat’s Rugby Football Club scarf in one hand, a tweed hat in the other and a raukura pinned on the lapel of his wool trench-coat.
‘‘A blanket that belonged to his mother, Rawinia, covered his legs,’’ Rachel said. ‘‘Leo had also requested to be buried with his stethoscope and some children’s toys; symbols not just of his marvellous work as a paediatrician but also of his playful, eccentric nature.’’