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Meet France’s oldest working doctor, 101, recognised for his longevity

Dr Christian Chenay began his career in 1946. He closed his surgery earlier this year but continues seeing some of his oldest patients

Christian Chenay at his desk in 2019, aged 97 Pic: Picture provided by Christian Chenay

France’s oldest working doctor has been honoured for his longevity after 77 years on the job.

Christian Chenay, 101, was given a medal by the local branch of the doctors’ professional body l'Ordre des médecins.

Dr Chenay continued to see patients at his surgery in Chevilly-Larue near Paris until the beginning of this year (2023). 

He has even continued to see some of his oldest patients, if they are unable to travel elsewhere, as the commune now has only one other GP.

Three years ago, he was received by France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, to recognise his efforts during the Covid pandemic. 

Mr Macron congratulated his “truly inspiring example”.

Upon receiving his recent honour, Dr Chenay explained why he did not take retirement, despite having been eligible at age 65. 

He said: “It’s easier to continue doing something you know. And now it’s much easier to keep up to date with things.”

By the time Dr Chenay senior closed his practice (located in his own home) last month, it had been running for almost eight decades, since 1946. His son – with whom he worked for 37 years - took retirement at age 65, but his father continued.

In an interview with Connexion when he was 97, Dr Chenay said: “I’m doing great. I’ve no memory trouble so it does not bother me. I am not the type to watch TV all day. I take the first 30 people and finish around 15:00-17:00.”

He also recognised that “working in a medical desert…everyone is overwhelmed” and joked: “Who would be crazy enough to take my job?”.

Medical deserts in France

The closure of this long-standing surgery means that there is now only one GP in the commune. It comes amid a context of increased numbers of medical deserts in France. 

An ‘official’ medical desert is defined as an area in which patients have access to fewer than 2.5 consultations with a local GP per year on average.

This may be because they cannot get an appointment, there are not enough doctors, or they live too far away from their nearest GP surgery.

The Ile-de-France region technically has the most doctors of any region, but despite this, the region’s high population means it is the worst affected in the country. Some 62.4% of people in the region have difficulties accessing care.

Living in a medical desert can lead to a decline in the health of the population and result in poor health or even dangerous conditions, due to people not being able to see a health professional quickly enough, or at all.

It can also mean that hospitals become oversaturated as more people go directly to an A&E department instead of their GP, or end up having to go to a hospital for a condition that could have been prevented if they had seen a GP earlier.

People with chronic conditions may not receive adequate monitoring and their issues may worsen.

Related articles

Eight facts to understand France’s issue of ‘medical deserts’

Seven questions about ‘medical deserts’ in France

How can I find out which parts of France are lacking doctors? 

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