A tribute to Emeritus Professor Sir John Scott KBE FRSNZ 26 June 1931- 20 October 2015

Emeritus Professor Sir John Scott KBE FRSNZ 26 June 1931- 20 October 2015
Emeritus Professor Sir John Scott KBE FRSNZ
26 June 1931- 20 October 2015

Earlier this month, at a Memorial Service, we paid tribute to Professor Sir John Scott, one of the truly great physicians of New Zealand medicine.   While he touched the lives of many Professor Scott excelled as a physician, a teacher, a researcher and a medical leader.

Dr Briar Peat had the pleasure of knowing and working with Professor Scott over a period of 20 years. Briar shares her memories of this much admired and loved man.

John Scott was part of number of significant milestones in my medical career. As a medical student, a medical registrar and a young consultant, to me he was always Professor Scott.

Professor Scott became widely known by the public of New Zealand in 1973, when he lead the investigation by the Department of Medicine into what became known as the “Brych affair”, which included a trip “behind the Iron Curtain”, exposing Milan Brych as a fraud and eventually leading to his deregistration by the Medical Council in 1974.

As a researcher, Professor Scott was an expert in the field of lipid metabolism and enjoyed eating pastries, He always said he knew exactly the level of his cholesterol and was allowed to indulge.

He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand (1987), in recognition of his important contributions as a researcher in the field of lipid metabolism and cardiovascular disease, and appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for Services to Medicine (1988).

After heading the University Department of Medicine, (1979-1987), Professor Scott came out to Middlemore to head the University of Auckland Academic Unit in 1987.

He told wonderful stories of the early days of the Medical School in Auckland, including stories of intrepid young researchers (who all became esteemed professors) ferrying a pig across Auckland in the back of a Fiat Bambina.

The most remarkable story he told me was that as a student at Knox College, he had been one of the chief perpetrators of the greatest UFO hoax in New Zealand history, the “Grand Interplanetary Hoax of 1952”, which completely fooled its intended target, the Otago Daily Times and gained significant international credence. http://skeptics.nz/journal/issues/33/alien-ships-in-our-skies.

He believed strongly in the scientific basis of medicine and spoke out strongly against pseudo-medicine. He believed that decisions should be made on “a basis of roundly presented, soundly analysed, best available information”. He decried “misinformation” and from his early days at Knox College, believed that the Establishment and the media should be held accountable. His dogged pursuit of the truth and his commitment to uncovering untruths lay beneath his somewhat remarkable ability to unearth a number of scandals and controversies in medicine throughout his career.

At Middlemore, Professor Scott’s primary focus was the nurturing of the relationship between the Clinical School and the Hospital and the fostering of a high quality research and learning environment, for which Counties continues to have a reputation second to none. During a period of repeated re-iterations of hospital services nationally, Professor Scott and David Clarke were the first in the country to re-introduce the role of a senior clinical leader, the Chief Medical Officer, of which Professor Scott was the first.

Professor Scott was an astute and caring physician who witnessed, and was part of, the rapid evolution of modern scientific medicine after the Second World War.

His manner with patients always impressed me, Professor Sir John Scott, Knight of the Realm, always introduced himself to his patients as Dr Scott.

Among others, he recounted the miracle that was the introduction of frusemide, before which the only treatments for heart failure were bed rest and digoxin.  Despite his deeply scientific leanings, he believed firmly in the Art of Medicine and the care of the patient.

“The craft of caring for patients is a legitimate, scientifically appropriate adjunct to medicine. That role is necessary for the comfort and sanity of human society. Osler said, “good clinical medicine will always blend the art of uncertainty with the science of probability.” ” (1995)

Professor Scott was a remarkable teacher. He was deeply committed to us as medical students and young physicians. His living memorial is the generation of New Zealand doctors who benefited from his wisdom and example.

Dr Briar Peat

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Author: Geraint Martin

Geraint Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Counties Manukau DHB in December 2006. It is one of the largest District Health Boards in New Zealand and services a population of half a million. He has significant experience over 30 years in national policy & in managing both primary and secondary care . Previously, he was Director of Health and Social Care Strategy at the Welsh Government .He authored a radical 10 year strategy of reform, including the successful “Saving 1000 lives” Campaign.Until 2004, he was CEO at Kettering General Hospital & had held senior positions in London & Birmingham.He has worked closely with clinicians in improving clinical standards,patient safety,chronic disease management & managing acute care to reduce hospital demand.In NZ, He has promoted clinical quality and leadership as central to improving patientcare. This has led to a significant increases in productivity and access, whilst maintaining financial balance. CMH has completed in 2014 a $500 m capital redevelopment programme, the largest in New Zealand. A central part of this is the establishment of Ko Awatea,the Centre for Innovation and Research which will underpin CMH as one of the the leading health systems in Australasia.In 2008, he chaired the Ministerial Review of Emergency Care in New Zealand, and in 2013 was an member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Sector Performance. Geraint has an MSc in Health Policy from Birmingham University .His post-graduate work has focused on health economics and Corporate Strategy . He is adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management at AUT and Victoria University, Wellington Elected in 2006 as a Companion of the Institute of Healthcare Management, previously he was an Associate Fellow at Birmingham University.He is is Chair of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a member of the Institute of Directors, on the Board of the NZ Institute of Health Management & previously the Board of The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission.

2 thoughts on “A tribute to Emeritus Professor Sir John Scott KBE FRSNZ 26 June 1931- 20 October 2015”

  1. A lovely man, kind hearted and wise. I worked on ethics group with him. I had deep respect for him.
    Rev. Irene Brodie, Hospital Chaplain 1992-2008

  2. Thanks, Dr Peat. Prof Scott has been an important figure throughout my medical career as well. Even as a GP, I occasionally rang him for advice.He will be a great loss.

    John Allen

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