Dr. Gilbert Barrie Wharton Tait
M.B., CH.B. (University of Otago, 1959), MRCP (1969), MRACP (1971), FRACP (1975), FRCP (1986), FAFRM (1993), MAFMM (1995), FFPMANZCA (1999)
The New Zealand College of Musculoskeletal Medicine mourns the loss of Dr Barrie Tait, a distinguished rheumatologist and pioneer in the fields of Pain Medicine and Musculoskeletal Medicine. Born on August 2, 1934, Dr Tait passed away on September 7, 2021, at the age of 87 in Auckland.
Dr Tait’s career began after completing his House Surgeon year in Auckland in 1960, followed by over a decade in the UK. There, he had the opportunity to work alongside renowned experts such as Dr James Cyriax at St Thomas’ Hospital and Professor TH Kellgren in Manchester. Dr Tait also held positions as a Clinical Lecturer and Senior Registrar in Rheumatology, Physical Medicine, and Rehabilitation at Oxford.
Upon returning to New Zealand, Dr Tait served as a rheumatologist at Waikato Hospital before transitioning to Auckland Hospital as the Physician in Charge of the Departments of Physical Medicine. It was during this time that he collaborated with Dr Bob Boas, an anaesthetist, to develop an interdisciplinary pain service, ultimately becoming a foundation member of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP).
In 1977, Dr Tait moved to Christchurch, where he made two significant contributions. First, he established a Postgraduate Diploma in Musculoskeletal Medicine, aimed at providing specialized training for general practitioners. Second, Dr Tait founded a clinical service for chronic pain patients at Burwood Hospital in Christchurch, emphasizing a biopsychosocial approach and interdisciplinary team model.
Dr Tait’s commitment to furthering the field of Musculoskeletal Medicine specifically is exemplified through his instrumental role in developing the Postgraduate Diploma in Musculoskeletal Medicine at the University of Otago. This program continues to thrive and has expanded to include pain-specific teaching with a diverse range of healthcare professionals. It is a nine-module, minimum two-year distance learning diploma, and was specifically designed for general practitioners. Dr Tait’s vision and collaborative efforts with the academic heads of the Departments of Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, and Medicine led to the formation of a combined academic department, Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Medicine, to oversee the diploma and associated undergraduate medical teaching. The first class, consisting of 31 students, began in 1989 and graduated in 1991. The program’s success led to increased enrolment, particularly from Australia, and has since expanded to include Master’s level qualifications and pain-specific teaching, attracting a diverse range of healthcare professionals as both academic staff and students. The NZCMM takes great pride in this significant contribution made by Dr Tait to the field.
Dr Tait held numerous prestigious positions, including Foundation President of the Australasian Faculty of Musculoskeletal Medicine (AFMM), and Past President of both the NZ Pain Society and the NZ Association of Musculoskeletal Medicine ( Now NZ College of Musculoskeletal Medicine). Outside of his professional life, he was passionate about art history and explored the complexities of the Philosophy of Mind. Dr Tait is survived by his wife Philippa and their four sons. We honour his memory and celebrate his lasting impact on the fields of Musculoskeletal and Pain Medicine.