Healthy bastards and a few good men

Dave is not just a pilot, nor a doctor, he's a passionate advocate for men’s health — making health education and services accessible for those who may tend to brush it under the carpet. And he's stopping at nothing to get his word out there.

Bulls Flying Doctor, Dave Baldwin, runs a unique medical centre — providing a mobile aviation medical service to pilots located in the rural airstrips in Mountainous New Zealand.

Flying is in his blood. Dave’s father was in the Air Force for over 50 years, and he and his siblings grew up with an ambition to fly.

“A lot of pilots are free spirited people. They are the master of their own destiny in the clouds."

Dave was originally training to be a cardiologist, but as the exam was on the same day as his pilot licence, he chose the latter and joined the Air Force to, as he puts it, “get that out of my system”.

Truly a master of his own destiny, Dave devised a way he could continue helping people while experiencing the beautiful outdoors. With the help of his equally free-spirited son Marc, The Bulls Flying Doctor service was born.

 

The Bulls Flying Doctor home base is a fully equipped aviation medical centre for visiting pilots, however, over half of their work is done offsite. Dave’s unique business model certifies the most pilots in the civil scene throughout New Zealand every year.

The idea of doing pilot medicals in remote airstrips began through Dave and his son’s shared interest in hunting in the West Coast.

“We spent a lot of time in Haast during the roaring season and with this, I started to do the local pilot’s medicals. It soon dawned on me that if I was able to fly down to these remote airstrips and do the pilots medicals on the spot, there would be several advantages for both the pilots and myself.”


Dave’s career is the ultimate union of his passions and his intrinsic motivations — to fly, to be outside, and to help people.

Dr Dave ensures pilots are in good general health, and that they’ve not been affected by issues associated with flying such as altitude, chemical exposure or thermal stress. He's able to give pilots the once over, in the comfort of familiar surroundings. If they don't meet standards, Dave then supports them to see specific practitioners so they can get back in the saddle.

Not only does Dave provide a general medical assessment, but he communicates and promotes preventative health care.

“If they’re over 50 I can offer them age-related tests such as prostate checks or if they’re working in agriculture I offer them further blood tests to check they’ve not been affected by the harsh chemicals.”

Dave has been seeing some of his clients for over 30 years now, building trusted relationships with rural pilots all throughout NZ — and often Dave is the only Doctor they will open up to.

“Just last week I flew South to see a client and friend who was too afraid to open up to anyone else. We then talked it through, and created a plan for the next stages of his recovery.”

Throughout Dave’s travels, he saw a disturbing trend in Kiwi men: a reluctance to talk about their health, often with dire consequences.

“I got sick of signing off death certificates for young men."

Dave knew he had to do something to change things, and the ‘Healthy Bastards’ campaign was born. Dave is now the President of the ‘International Healthy Bastards Club’ spreading awareness to community groups and in prisons on health and wellbeing. His aim is to promote good health messages to those who don’t tend to listen.

“The angle is ‘non-pc’ and approachable, as most people don’t look at fancy pamphlets nor do they care. I talk to people on their level. That is the only way to get them on board.”

Dave is now the author of four books that aim at using humour and digestible language to promote serious health messages to the “average Kiwi bloke.”

“I spread the word through a combination of books, movies, sponsorship, social media and fighting it out with any politician I can find!”

His first book, Healthy Bastards, covers the physical aspect of health such as blood pressure and cancer. In his second book, The Flying Doctor, Dave touches on holistic health and concludes that for someone to ‘truly be a healthy bastard’ one must nurture their mental and spiritual health too.

This lead to his most recent book, The Bushman’s Bible, which looks beyond the material world, taking a holistic approach to health, spirituality and wellbeing.

The Bushman’s Bible completes the Healthy Bastard’s trilogy. He aims to place a copy of this book in every mountain hut throughout NZ — trying to reach those who typically don’t ask for help, notably in rural and isolated areas. As he says, ‘there’s a Gideon's in every hotel room, I hope there to be a Bushman’s bible in every Mountain Hut.’

“They get a bit sick of the 5-year old Reader’s Digest, old hunting magazines or the odd worn out Playboy Magazine when they’re stuck in a hut in a storm, so if there’s an interesting book like ‘The Bushmans Bible’ that has humour in it, it might teach them about health and fire the spark!”

Dave's on a crusade to educate and uplift, going above and beyond to spread his good health message and ensure people reach out and ask for help.

“It’s all about karma. If you do a good job and don’t spend too much time counting the cost, it comes back to you in other ways.”

Although Dave has had his fair share of heartbreak and loss, having sadly lost his son to suicide at 24, he fuels his love of life by giving his time to others.

“I am 61, and I am fit as a buck rat, I have got everything I want… I have no wants. I have a soulmate and wife of 40 years, great jobs, and through the jobs I have great friendship — so I just want to keep on helping people really cause, I think true happiness is being involved and actually helping other people.”

Dave’s work is massively important. It is heart and soul. It demonstrates the capacity that human beings have to truly make a difference in the world today.

“I live to work and won’t be stopping till I drop.”

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