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Dr Basil Hetzel AC. Photo courtesy of The Advertiser, 2012.

The Hospital Research Foundation is saddened by the passing of Dr Basil Hetzel AC, one of our nation’s most cherished pioneers of medical research.  

Dr Hetzel was the first Professor of Medicine at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (TQEH) and the figurehead of the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research (BHI). He lived a truly significant life achieving many momentous public health milestones which will be honoured through the medical research we are able to support thanks to our kind community of donors.

Dr Hetzel’s distinguished research career has helped millions of children and saved lives around the world. Discovering the link between iodized salt in the diet and the prevention of brain damage in newborns, his work has been recognized as one of the most significant medical discoveries of our times. But it wasn’t easy. His ground-breaking work took him to remote parts of Papua New Guinea in the 1960s to help identify the link between iodine deficiency and conditions such as cretinism.

While his distinguished career has been recognised through numerous scientific and humanitarian awards, his long successful life only served to fuel his commitment to improving public and community health.

“Dr Hetzel dedicated his life to improving public health worldwide. He was an absolute innovator in his area and a national treasure whose legacy will be cemented in history,” said THRF CEO Paul Flynn.

“We are very proud to support research in Dr Hetzel’s honour by funding translational research at the BHI and building a group of donors who belong to the Basil Hetzel Society.

“Our thoughts are with Dr Hetzel’s family and friends during this time.”

A groundbreaking career

In addition to his stellar research career, Dr Hetzel lived a fulfilling life in medicine and education. Studying medicine at the University of Adelaide from 1940 to 1944, Dr Hetzel was a Fulbright Research Scholar in the 1950s, including an appointment at Cornell New York Hospital Medical Centre, New York.

Following this, Dr Hetzel was appointed as the Michell Professor of Medicine at TQEH and University of Adelaide then Foundation Professor of Social and Preventive Medicine at Monash University, Melbourne.

In 2001, the long standing research activities at TQEH were formally named in Dr Hetzel’s honour. The Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research (BHI) is at the forefront of medical science aiming to improve health through collaborative discoveries and innovations in patient care, education and research.

In his lifetime Dr Hetzel was also a founding member of the South Australian Mental Health Association and played a key role in establishing Lifeline, a crisis support system that remains in operation today.

Dr Hetzel was the first Chief of CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition and Chancellor of the University of South Australia from 1992 until 1998. In 2005, the building for health sciences at the university’s City East campus was named the Basil Hetzel building and the campus library also has a Hetzel room which contains a collection of his research.

Dr Hetzel held the position of Lieutenant Governor of South Australia from April 1992 to May 2000. Dedicated to advocating for the power of education and public education, he was a key supporter for the foundation of the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre at UniSA and he was its Chair from 1998 to 2007.