Work of New Zealand M.E. pioneer remembered

August 10, 2009

The work of New Zealand M.E. pioneer, the late Dr Peter Snow, was remembered in a simple ceremony at Tapanui, West Otago, South Island, on Saturday, August 8.

About 100 people who had all known Dr Snow during the 37 years that he worked as Tapanui's only family doctor gathered at the inveiling of a memorial plaque.

Dr Snow, who later became president of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs, brought ‘Tapanui Flu' – later re-diagosed as ME – to the attention of the medical world in 1984 when he wrote about an unusual outbreak of the disease in the sheep-farming area in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

He described how three years earlier he had noticed a number of patients presenting with extreme fatigue and an inability to continue in their jobs. All but three were under the age of 45. Most were young people and schoolchildren who did not regularly see a doctor. Snow observed that most had been ill for four to six weeks when they came to his clinic.

The plaque was erected next to what local reporter Glenn Conway with the Otago Daily Times described as "a large chunk of moonrock" – reflecting Peter Snow's interest in meteorites. A meteorite collision with the moon resulting in a meteorite shower over West Otago was recorded in 1766.

Dr Snow's three sons were all present on Saturday – one of them, Adrian, saying his father would have been "chuffed" to be at the event which was the culmination of years of consideration to work out how best to remember a man who gave so much to the area.

Peter Snow was president of his royal college 1998-99. Shortly before his death in February 2006, at the age of 71, the royal college granted him their "Distinguished Fellowship", their highest award.


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