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Basil Hetzel: Australian medical pioneer, and my friend

Health & Medical

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The Hon Dr Basil Hetzel AC4th

Described as an Australian medical pioneer, he identified the most common cause of preventable brain damage: dietary deficiency in the mineral iodine.

Not only that, he progressed his scientific and clinical findings to create effective public health policy to prevent brain damage, cretinism (stunted intellectual and physical development) and goitre (enlargement of the thyroid gland) due to iodine deficiency across the world. He is the reason many of us now ingest iodised salt as a preventative health behaviour.

formal and informal ties to the university

Well dear, I’m happy to do it if you still want me,

Sansom Institute for Health Researchhonouredtravelling

He’s awesome!


Pathway from discovery to public health impactStarting in the 1960s, Basil Hetzel identified iodine deficiency as a preventable cause of intellectual impairment and other disorders, and initiated an effective global public health program that is still in place today.


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Content included in the timeline was provided by Howard Morris, and the structure originally prepared by Basil himself following his participation in discussion about a program of research in Nutritional Physiology at the University of Adelaide.

Howard notes that Basil emphasised the necessity for fundamental physiology research to generate programs for the translation of knowledge to improve the human condition. This was what he termed the “Big Picture”. He prioritised communicating to the next generation of medical researchers, always willing to spend his time and energy exploring various avenues by which he could communicate his message of the Big Picture.

Basil published a summary of his work preventing iodine deficiency in a 2012 commentary.

Pat BuckleyUniversity of South Australia.

The Conversationoriginal article

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