Tamworth doctor joins wife with OAM

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THERE’S not many couples with his and hers OAMs, but Tamworth’s Peter and Jo Wakeford are now members of that exclusive club.

Yesterday Dr Wakeford received an OAM for service to medicine and the community, several years after his wife received hers for her work with the establishment of mental health support services in the city. 

Like his fellow honourees, he was humbled by the recognition, but paid tribute to all those who’d made similar contributions. 

“I’ve run it through my mind many times since I found out and it’s a bit daunting,” he said.

“It’s an honour and there’s a certain amount of pride in being invested ... but this represents a lot of people who’ve done a lot of work in the medical field and contributed substantially.”

His career could have gone in a very different direction had he continued with the aeronautical engineering degree he began at Sydney University, but after 12 months he realised it wasn’t for him.

A talented footballer – he was selected for the Wallabies tour of New Zealand in 1958 – he said many of his fellow players were doing medicine and he decided to investigate a switch.

“I think I was interested because it was to do with people, rather than machinery – it just seemed to be more interesting,” Dr Wakeford said. His career path was set and in 1967 as a young doctor, with new wife Jo, whose family were at Bingara, they made the move to Tamworth.

At that stage he was just the second consultant physician in Tamworth and only the third in the region.

Dr Wakeford said the small, but close-knit, medical community worked hard to improve the medical landscape in Tamworth, for instance raising the funds that brought the first ultrasound and nuclear medicine facilities to the city.

The list of his career achievements would fill a page on its own, but includes the likes of honorary gastroenterologist at Tamworth hospital until his retirement in 2001, physician-in-charge of nuclear medicine at the hospital and honorary consultant physician at a raft of smaller regional hospitals. 

Retired in 2001, it wasn’t long before he stepped back into the fray, becoming a surgical assistant at Tamara hospital, a role he still enjoys.

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