New medical director appointed

Posted by SLSNZ Media on Thursday, April 13, 2017

Surf Life Saving New Zealand has appointed Dr Gary Payinda as its new Medical Director.

The purpose of the role is to provide strategic direction and advice on matters pertaining to patient care by lifeguards and to ensure all surf lifesaving activities promote the health and wellbeing of members.

Originally from the United States, Gary was educated at Johns Hopkins and the University of Chicago before training in emergency medicine at Los Angeles County Hospital.

"It's a big trauma centre where I got experience in dive medicine/hyperbarics, helimed retrievals, and did lots of resuscitation. During that time I was elected to the executive board of a national union of doctors-in-training, and equally importantly, learned to surf," he says.

Gary moved to Whangarei 10 years ago with his wife and two children. They planned to stay for six months but ended up loving New Zealand and stayed permanently.

He has been working as an emergency medicine specialist at Whangarei Hospital since 2007 and is an elected member of the Northern District Health Board and volunteer on a local school board. He serves as the co-director of emergency medicine training at the hospital and for a few years, had a stint writing a newspaper column called 'Ask Dr Gary.'

More recently, he become a member of the Ruakaka Surf Life Saving Club and he enjoys spearfishing, boating, diving and other water-related activities.

Gary says he's looking forward to building on the work done by his predecessor (Dr Angela Veric) in trying to prevent drowning and keeping lifeguards and beachgoers from getting injured as well as treatment when they do become injured.

"More specifically, my goals are to keep people up-to-date on the very best in evidence-based resuscitation, assure a high standard of pre-hospital medical care by Surf Lifeguards, bring together lifeguards with a special interest or experience in medicine into a Medical Advisory Group and raise the public profile of lifeguards who form a strong team of skilled first-responders."

In amongst the thousands of lifeguards are hundreds of people with hard-earned, real-life experience in nursing, physiotherapy, medicine, pharmacy, paramedicine, psychology and other branches of healthcare and Gary says the Medical Advisory Group (MAG) would be a place to share experiences, talk about what works and doesn't on the beach and debate best practices for everything from skin cancer prevention to resuscitation.

"At its best, the MAG would serve as a group of educated, engaged and professional advisors informing the medical director and leadership of SLSNZ on medical issues, while also serving as a trusted educational resource for the general membership, he says.

"Reaching out further, a body of engaged healthcare professionals in a SLSNZ Medical Advisory Group could be a resource to grow our involvement and influence within the NZ Resuscitation Council and the International Lifesaving Federation. The MAG would also allow for better cross-pollination with other services in the first-responder sector such as ambulance, search and rescue, police, fire and Coastguard."

Surf Life Saving members with experience in healthcare or health sciences should email Gary at for more information about the MAG or with any general enquiries.


For more information, please contact:

Lisa Smith, Media & Communications Manager, SLSNZ
Phone 0276 488 823


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