Doctor Takes on Challenge of Naval Operations

15 August 2018

An Auckland paediatrician has become one of only three full-time Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) doctors, undertaking the gruelling 22-week officer training course to earn a commission.

Surgeon Lieutenant Dylan Mordaunt graduated as a midshipman on 30 June at Devonport Naval Base with 22 other classmates. He was then promoted three levels to Navy Lieutenant, recognising his prior training and experience as a qualified doctor.

Medical officers in the RNZN have red stripes between their gold epaulets and have “Surgeon” in front of their rank, rather than “doctor”.

“I know it sounds unusual, a paediatrician coming to the Navy,” Surgeon Lieutenant Mordaunt said. “I qualified as a doctor in 2006 and finished specialist training as a paediatrician in 2015. I’ve worked in hospitals, and in healthcare management. I started talking to the Defence Force in mid-2015 and applied in 2017.

“Hospitals are very technically challenging, but the nature and variety of leadership opportunities in Defence Health are unique and appealing.

“You achieve a lot with a little – trying to support both deployed operations and shore-based care, the challenge is on a different scale.”

Completing the full officer training means he is qualified to deploy on an RNZN ship as a medical officer if required. It is standard to have medics on a ship, but a doctor would be deployed for a specific reason, such as exercises or operations with a heightened threat to personnel.

When not deployed he will be based at the Northern Health Support Squadron at Devonport Naval Base. In both environments medical officers contribute as part of a multi-disciplinary health and military team.

He chose to join the RNZN after discussing options with colleagues from the Royal New Zealand Air Force and New Zealand Army.

“We decided Navy suited me – it was the service that had the least number of doctors and I was keen to go where I was most needed,” he said.

It was a great opportunity for any doctor, he said.

“Defence health is dynamic and different from civilian healthcare – it presents different challenges and opportunities.”

He has a young family, and appreciates he may be sent overseas if the RNZN requires it.

“The decision to join the Navy obviously wasn’t made lightly, but it was made keeping them in mind. My perspective is they will no doubt miss me on the times I’m deployed, but they will value the experiences and stories that I gain. My children are excited about it.”

This page was last reviewed on 7 February 2019.