05 December 2014

The New Zealand Medical Association has this year presented its highest honour—the Chairman’s Award—to former MP Dr Paul Hutchison.

“The Chairman’s Award is the NZMA’s recognition of individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the health of New Zealand,” says NZMA Chair Dr Mark Peterson. “It is my great pleasure to present the award this year to a man who made the move from medicine to politics, and maintained his strong interest in public health throughout his political career.”

A graduate of Otago University, Dr Hutchison became a specialist consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at National Women’s Hospital and North Shore hospitals, and helped set up one of New Zealand’s first day stay hospitals, the Artemis Medical and Surgical Centre.

He was an office holder with the NZMA, and spearheaded an action committee to achieve Caesarean section facilities on Auckland’s North Shore in the 1990s.

In 1999 Dr Hutchison became the Member of Parliament for Port Waikato and then Hunua. During his time in Parliament he maintained his strong interest in public health, chairing the Health Select Committee over the last six years.

In this role, he initiated several parliamentary inquiries—into disability issues, prostate cancer, clinical trials and innovation, and immunisation. Most recently, he chaired the inquiry into 'How to improve child health outcomes and prevent child abuse, with a focus from preconception to three years'.

“This produced a powerful document with what the NZMA described at the time as the most impressive set of recommendations we had seen from a Select Committee,” says Dr Peterson. “This was notable for its independent stance and for the multi-party agreement on the importance of improving child health.

“Paul continues to strongly advocate that child health in New Zealand needs huge sustained focus and political will to raise our child outcomes to near the top of the world where they should be. He sees a great opportunity for successive governments to implement the cross party recommendations the committee made—and the NZMA wholeheartedly endorses this view and will continue to strongly advocate for the implementation of its recommendations.”

NZMA Fellowships have also been presented to Dr Tim Baily Gibson (Masterton), Dr Sandra Hicks (Christchurch, and Dr Don Simmers (Wellington). The Fellowships are awarded to members who have given service above and beyond normal duty—to the NZMA, to the profession and to patients.