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19 September 2015

Peter Walker (1942 - ) plastic & reconstructive surgeon

Pater Walker's father was a Dutch diplomat, and his mother an art teacher from Christchurch, New Zealand. Until the age of 10 he was educated at English private schools in Egypt, and after that at boarding schools in New Zealand. He did his medical education at Otago University Medical School, 1961-79, and has been a plastic & reconstructive surgeon since 1981. Most of his work has been breast reductions and augmentations, nose jobs and tummy tucks, and reconstructive surgery in the wake of skin cancer.

He did his first transgender operation in 1992.
"My patients have been aircraft pilots, electronics technicians, computer operators, accountants. They've been merchant mariner captains. Unfortunately, there is still a residuum who have been ostracised at school and left as early as they could and ended up at the bottom of the heap, and had to, for example, become prostitutes. You have from aircraft pilots to prostitutes - the whole range. … They've tried to deny they are transgendered, and done everything they could to demonstrate to the world that they're not. But finally they have to face themselves, and become the female they know they should be."
Walker was part of a three-surgeon team based in Christchurch that has performed 61 male-to-female surgeries. During a four-hour operation, colorectal surgeon Richard Perry created the vagina, urologist Stephen Mark reorganised the urinary plumbing and Walker dealt with the external bits. This was the only provision in New Zealand. In the early days when the NZ $ was weak, private patients came from around the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and the US. He's operated on a Texan police officer. He's in email contact with an American pastor who has
"a great following in her church - I think they probably do know she's transgender."
Some of his patients said that they had no interest in penetrative sex, so the operation was simply external, with no vagina. Dr Walker has also become renowned for 'salvage surgery' where failed inverted penile surgery had to be corrected.

The New Zealand health system pays for four mtf operations every two years, and sends one ftm person abroad for surgery.

The patient who got the most attention in the press was Joanne Proctor, who was due for surgery in 1997 when her local health authority decided to stop funding such procedures. It was not until 2002 that she was rescheduled with Dr Walker, and due to some misunderstanding it was decided to do a colovaginoplasty rather than a penile inversion, while Joanne was expecting the latter. Joanne was left with post-surgical complications, which ended up costing the national health service as much again as the vaginoplasty had done.

In 2007, Walker had temporarily stopped doing surgery while he underwent surgery himself - an elbow reconstruction, a double hip replacement and an acute gall bladder operation. He was out for another few months with a broken leg suffered in a jet-boat accident this year.

A report by the Human Rights Commission the next year criticised the Ministry of Health for contracting transgender operations to only one surgeon, in that the patient's right to quality health services was thereby limited.

Walker's last transgender patient before he retired in 2014 was Theresa, a truck driver, who had been living as female and on the waiting list for surgery for over two decades.

There are currently over 60 New Zealanders on the waiting list, a queue that will take 30 years to process at the current rate even if Dr Walker is replaced. He wrote to all the plastic surgeons in New Zealand, but failed to find any takers.
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