Upper Hutt Man Gets Special Award For Lifetime of Service

Posted: 16 December 2013

An Upper Hutt Doctor, who has given over 40 years of voluntary service to MedicAlert®, has been honoured by an international Award for his lifetime of community work.  Dr Harish Rajpal (88) last week received the internationally recognised Marion C Collins Award, the most prestigious Award, offered by the world-wide MedicAlert® Foundation.

The Award honours Dr Rajpal for being a volunteer who, over a sustained period, has made an exemplary contribution to the ongoing goals of MedicAlert®. He is one of only 14 people internationally to have received this Award, which was last presented in 2002.  “Contributions such as Dr Rajpal’s are critical to protecting and saving lives”, said the President and Chief Executive of MedicAlert® Foundation International, Andrew Wigglesworth.

Left to right: Dr Rajpal and John Brookie (MedicAlert® Foundation New Zealand Chairman)

Dr Rajpal was the first medical Doctor to provide services to the organisation in New Zealand, and has worked with the Membership organisation in a voluntary capacity since 1970.  Born in India, where he qualified Dr Rajpal immigrated to New Zealand with his wife, Darshee, in 1966.  He settled in Upper Hutt, and began practising as a GP with Trinity House from, which he retired 10 years ago.

Dr Rajpal became a Foundation Member of the Silverstream Lions Club, which, in those days, and with other NZ Lions, established the New Zealand Affiliate of MedicAlert®.  His early role with the organisation was to confirm the Medical Certificates that were created for its Members, as a condition of their acceptance.  Key details from the certificates are engraved on Members’ Medical Identification bracelets.

"It was a massive responsibility because MedicAlert® is dedicated to saving lives”, Dr Rajpal says.  “The certificates identified the Member’s condition, and the appropriate treatment and that information was recorded in our files for any Doctor in the world to access”.  “Get that wrong, and the Member could well die from a misdiagnosis or incorrect treatment”.  Dr Rajpal says “that, in those days, MedicAlert® was pretty much run out of someone's briefcase”, but it grew rapidly and the organisation had to quickly find office space, and employ paid staff.

"We were the very first Affiliate in the world to become fully computerised, and we now have over 140,000 members in New Zealand”.  Internationally, the organisation has over 4 million Members in 70 countries.

Dr Rajpal’s lifetime of service to MedicAlert® was born out of a family ethos of service to the community, he says.  “Community service was very important to my Father, and it’s a value he instilled in me.  That’s why I became a Doctor.  It’s a useful way of serving the community, in which you live”.

“It gave me peace of mind to know that I was contributing something to the people around me“.  Serving MedicAlert® was an extension of that.  I felt I was helping people, who might not be able to help themselves in an emergency.  “But it’s now time to retire.  The work is becoming more technical, and there are plenty of skilled young people ready to lend a hand, so may be I’ll just enjoy my retirement for a bit, and spend more time with my very lovely, and very kind wife, whose supported me all these years”.

After retiring from Trinity House a decade ago, Dr Rajpal spent 10 years as a Locum in various parts of New Zealand, including Whangarei, the West Coast, Wanganui, Wellington and Levin.  “I enjoy meeting people and Locums are always in demand, so I was never short of work”.  “It was great to live in, and be part of different communities”.  Now Dr Rajpal is looking forward to a bit of social travel, walking and gardening.

MedicAlert® was initially founded by California-based Dr Marion Collins in 1956.  Dr Collins first saw the need for patients with diagnosed diseases to carry some kind of identification device that would tell medical professionals, what the patient's condition was, and what kind of treatment was in order.

Each Member’s Medical ID carries a telephone number, and key details that enable health professionals anywhere in the world to obtain vital information about that Member instantly, and to provide appropriate treatment.

  For more information contact:

  1. Dr Harish Rajpal (04) 528-5044.

  2. MedicAlert® Foundation New Zealand Chairman, John Brookie (04) 528-3588.

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