Dr Emma Parry came to New Zealand for the mountains. “I was working in the United Kingdom, often on 48-hour shifts, and I decided I needed a better working environment.” A keen mountain climber, she decided New Zealand was the place to go. Twenty years later, her career as a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist has gone from strength to strength.
As a respected doctor and clinician with 25 years experience, Parry has won many awards for her work in medicine and has held several senior leadership and governance roles. She is especially interested in screening, nutrition, complex multiple pregnancy and improving maternal and perinatal health in the developing world. She established the New Zealand Maternal Fetal Medicine Network, which ensures women have access to excellent perinatal care. She is also media spokesperson for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. In 2015 she received an award for Excellence in Teaching from the University of Auckland.
For Parry, a career obstetrics and gynaecology was a natural fit. “I love working with people and getting through road blocks,” she says. “I’m a ‘doing’ person, so the operating part of the specialty really appealed to me. I also like dealing with complex problems which you get in high-risk obstetrics. Delivering babies is amazing. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. And I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie.”
Parry has experienced a few bumps in her career along the way. “When I first arrived, it was before the internet. I had been working in a big teaching hospital in the UK and if I heard about a new study I could go to the library and read The New England Journal of Medicine. In New Zealand, I sometimes had to wait three months for it to arrive. I did feel like I was at the end of the world and I worried that I could be out-of-date with my practice. But accessibility changed. Now in NZ I feel we have an advantage because we are a small country [so] we can be nimble. When the journal is published I can look at it the same day as everyone else in the world and email all the people in our network and update our guidelines straight away. The hurdles have now turned into an advantage.”
Having completed her degree and training in London, she moved to Auckland Hospital, which has one of the country’s largest maternity units. “[New Zealanders] get a lot done. There’s an openness here, less of a hierarchy; you can just get on with things.”
Helping mums and bubs
Another highlight was working in Bhutan for three months on the inception and development of a perinatal unit and countrywide network. “Deaths and serious injury for mothers and babies have fallen significantly because of this initiative.”
Parry is also passionate about her role as medical ambassador for Lifestream. “I’m involved in developing new supplement products and putting good information in place for pre and postnatal care. People have asked, ‘How do I go from high-risk pregnancies to healthy ones?’ I’ve seen what can go wrong so I want to prevent that from happening. I also want to help women have the knowledge to change the power base and make good decisions about their pregnancy.”
Parry says she is proud to be working in New Zealand’s health field. “We have world-leading researchers and pioneers. I love that we were the first to give women the vote and I love being part of a multicultural society that’s not based on hierarchy.”