Paul arrived seven minutes early for our meeting at a local cafe. I wasn’t surprised, but I was thankful I was early by eight. Not because I’m competitive you understand, let’s just say I may have been a bit nervous about interviewing the well-regarded founder of the esteemed Skin Centre; he has a reputation for setting the bar high. I needn’t have worried because what followed was 45 minutes of the most enjoyable conversation I’d had all month; engaging, entertaining, and surprising all at the same time.
Though Paul knew he wanted to go into medicine at 15, it took him till around 27 to find his specialist niche in Dermatology. What you might find surprising is that, in between those years, he worked in professional yachting overseas. In his trademark style of not doing anything by halves, he competed in the Fastnet Offshore Race, and the toughest of all, the Whitbread Round the World Race (now Volvo Ocean Race).
Realising that a family life and blue water yacht racing would have been unsustainable, he went back into medicine. During his time specialising as a Dermatologist, he was lucky enough to gain a position at the prestigious University of California, San Francisco, the birthplace of the modern MOHS Surgery (a method of skin cancer surgery) for which Paul is currently renowned. He is passionate about the fact that skin cancer treatments for the face should not result in unsightly scars. The passion for pursuing excellence in this area has seen the Skin Centre become one of only five places outside the United States to run a MOHS Surgery postdoctoral fellowship training program, attracting fellow dermatologists from around the world. Paul says that being involved in the training of other specialists helps the Skin Centre remain at the forefront of their field and facilitates regular publications in the medical literature.
In his personal life, spending time with his wife and kids makes Paul the happiest. Like many in the Bay, he’s a surfer and also a volunteer lifeguard with the Omanu Beach Surf Life Saving Club, but that’s not all. He’s also a self-confessed native tree-hugger and along with his family, he supports tree planting for shade in Papamoa and Mount Maunganui in joint projects with the council and has been doing so for 15 years. This year they have donated another 200 pohutukawa trees for revegetation work on Mauao, which they will be helping plant in June.
At work though, Paul gets no greater pleasure than from the time he spends getting to know his patients via conversations in the operating room. With a significant percentage of Paul’s work done under local anaesthesia, he’s able to learn a lot about his patients and is always humbled and amazed by the lives his patients have led. He remarked, “It’s a privilege to be able to share quality time with my patients and an honour to be able to make such a life-changing difference.” adding that there’s not a day when one of their team wouldn’t save a life through early detection of melanoma.
The traits he most admires in others are thoughtfulness, high standards of service and people who take pride in their work. These values manifest clearly in the team culture at Skin Centre. Paul readily admits that this is due to everyone at work sharing the same primary focus of a quality patient experience. “All of my colleagues at the Skin Centre have the same focus – the best care for our patients – and we are lucky to have such a fantastic team to help us deliver that.”