Crawford House Publishing
Doctor in Paradise Challenges and Rewards in Medical Service New Guinea 1958-1970

In 1957, having graduated in Medicine at the University of Adelaide three years previously, Dr Mary Guntner (née Fritsch) accepted an urgent call to serve as a doctor with the Lutheran Mission in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea).

Setting out in 1958, she served first at Yagaum, near Madang, and then at Finschhafen at the Buangi and Butaweng hospitals. Later, she became the 'flying doctor' as she commuted frequently, incorporating Yagaum hospital again into her workload while being based in the Finschhafen area.

Her work revolved around emergencies of all descriptions, from caesarean sections to fractures to treating massive goitres and various tropical diseases; and inspirational work such as treating a child with contractured limbs following inactivity over several months owing to illness, and 'plastic surgery' requiring many operations on a man who had suffered burns to his face and neck, without treatment, with resulting contractures. And all the time the continuing fight with tuberculosis and leprosy was waged, Mary being responsible for many patients at any one time; the Butaweng hospital alone had 600 beds!

Not only was Mary practising medicine, she was also teaching, as her many helpers were mostly indigenous, learning nursing and all it entailed as they went along. Coping with floods, lack of transport, medical supplies, fresh food, and unreliable communications also added to the vagaries of life in a developing Third World country.

The regular, newsy letters Mary wrote home during the nine years she spent in New Guinea were preserved faithfully by her mother and, together with her own memories, they form the basis of this informative account. With quotes from her letters interspersed throughout this narrative, we experience Mary's enthusiasm and the excitement of each moment as it unfolds.

It is a lively, true account of her fascinating, fulfilling, but often perilous, experiences, her love for this beautiful, challenging country and her devotion to the people whom she had vowed to serve.

Together with her fellow-workers, she can rightly claim that there was 'never a dull moment'!


Mary W. Guntner was born in Natimuk, Victoria, the fourth daughter of Pastor Walter Fritsch and his wife, Mathilde. In 1938 the family moved to Adelaide where Pastor Fritsch was in charge of a large city congregation. Mary graduated with an MB, BS from Adelaide University in 1957 and for a short period worked with the mentally ill in Adelaide. However, with a family background of involvement in missionary work, it wasn't long before she, too, eagerly took up the call to be of service to the Lutheran Mission in New Guinea.


Mary W. Guntner


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32 B & W photos


Portrait, 412 pages soft cover


204 x 135 mm



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