Living the high life down under


When I ask Gary Kode what he does to unwind and if he has any interesting hobbies, he laughs and says, “How much time do you have?”

A plastic surgeon by day, Dr Kode has an eclectic range of interests and personal passions that help him balance the demands of a busy practice. An avid photographer, fly-fisher and farmer, his multi-faceted lifestyle feeds his necessity for knowledge and wonder.

“One of my major hobbies is wildlife photography. I’ve given several talks on this and I always feel there is more to learn. I’ve been to Africa and taken photos of the amazing wildlife and Borneo to take photos of the orangutans,” says Dr Kode.

“As far as other hobbies go, the farm is a big one. My wife Monique and I bought a derelict home on a 450-acre farm and we’ve been heavily involved in fixing this up and running the farm. It’s very time consuming but well worth it and very interesting. Of course, I also love fishing.”

Gone fishing

Dr Kode created “SOPPS” around eight years ago – a society for plastic surgeons who fly- fish. The aim was, and still is, to bring like-minded colleagues together who otherwise may not have the chance.

So what’s it all about? “Collegiality, friendships and sharing with each other. It’s all about supporting and helping mates,” explains Dr Kode. “We get together at the end of a day of fly-fishing, share some beverages, prepare good food and throw around ideas. Everyone chips in and cooks and prepares the food – it’s very open and honest and everyone very much contributes to the meeting.”

“We also discuss topics of real interest and concern, which are not always mentioned in the big meetings – for example, stress and burnout, billing and difficult patients,” says Dr Kode.

“There’s a really good sense of camaraderie and support for one another, which is something that’s really special.”

SOPPS is an inclusive society, open to everyone. Dr Kode says that it is a non-intimidating environment and is an especially great forum for those who are a bit reserved. “One thing I want to make clear is that it’s definitely not a ‘boys club’ in any sense. We certainly welcome female surgeons with an interest in fly-fishing,” says Dr Kode.

“The society is going from strength to strength. Our last annual meeting in November last year was very successful, held in the highlands in Tasmania. So far we have about 15-20 members from Australia, six from New Zealand and one from the US. What has become obvious is that everybody enjoys being involved in the discussion and the supportive and positive approach,” says Dr Kode.

Out on the farm

With a hectic lifestyle, and most of it revolving around his practice and patients, one of Dr Kode’s greatest joys is spending time on his 450-acre farm as it allows him to relax, unwind and of course, broaden his knowledge.

“The biggest advantage about the farm is learning about new things, which is an absolute necessity for me. Also, looking long term, when my wife and I retire, we’ll have somewhere beautiful to stay. Although we’ve got a lot to learn and a long way to go, it’s all very exciting.”

One of the areas Dr Kode is developing is an emphasis on fresh produce, growing his own Wagu beef and lamb on his farm.

“We already have about 200 lambs (and a tonne and a half of wool!). There’s a real emphasis on healthy produce. I make sure that everything we do is good for the environment and that no chemicals are used. This goes for our livestock as well. The animals are not exposed to any chemicals or antibiotics and are the highest quality beef.”

“It’s certainly not an easy job – there’s a lot that goes into running the farm (I’m up at 6am for the cattle) – but we love it.”

On his love for Tassie

South-African born Dr Kode is passionate about his adopted home, Tasmania, saying it’s not just about the picturesque scenery and second to none food
and wine (including his son’s aperitivo bar and restaurant, Geronimo) but also its inhabitants: “One of the main things I like most about Tassie is the incredible people. There is just such a lovely sense of community here.”

“I moved to Australia, specifically Tasmania, from South Africa a couple of days before I turned 40. There wasn’t much of a future in South Africa for me and it was such a fantastic opportunity to move over here,” says Dr Kode.

“There are so many things special about Tasmania. I like the seasonal produce, because it’s always fresh, healthy and there is something for everyone.
Another thing I enjoy is going to the highlands with fishing rods and hiking for five or so days.

I’ll usually take my camera and end up coming across exquisite landscapes and wildlife to photograph. The West Coast of Tasmania is wild, rugged and stunning. There’s no place quite like it. What can I say – life is good!” AMP

This article is sponsored by ProLENDING to profile individual plastic surgeons in Australia. ProLENDING specialises in medical finance.