My early developmental experience included growing up on a farm in the Waikato. Although I enjoyed helping to care for the calves, lambs, piglets, chickens, puppies, and kittens, I never wanted to become a farmer. Animal handling practices at the time were not always baby-friendly, and some were cruel. It is reassuring that the practice has improved to some extent.
Instead of farming I was able to follow my older brother’s footsteps to New Zealand’s then only medical school at Otago. Despite the distance and the hazards of hitchhiking as the main form of travel, it was usual to return to the home farm during term holidays. Here I was able to be involved with the observations made by my paediatrician brother-in-law, Ross Howie, on the respiratory distress syndrome experienced by pre-term lambs in the makeshift “intensive care unit” in our woolshed. Along with Obstetrician Mont Liggins, also from Auckland, who discovered the maturing effect of maternally-given antenatal steroids on fetal lamb lungs, he went on to conduct the first randomised control trial of this intervention in humans. This practice which is now standard worldwide has saved many thousands of lives. While I was a medical student it was inspiring to be on the periphery of this ground-breaking research.