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December 2010 Issue
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Graduate's portrait comes home

 Alumni

A portrait of esteemed medical researcher and graduate Dr Basil Hetzel AC, painted to commemorate the University of Adelaide's 125th anniversary of its medical program, has been officially unveiled in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Dr Hetzel was one of 59 of the State's best known medical personnel who were captured on canvas this year by two local artists and displayed in Bonython Hall as part of the Medicine 125 celebrations.

His portrait, by artist Avril Thomas, now hangs in the atrium of the Basil Hetzel Institute for Medical Research at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) as testament to his lifelong work to combat iodine deficiencies worldwide.

Dr Hetzel purchased the portrait in August and has donated it back to the University of Adelaide. The QEH has been chosen as the new home for the painting - it's where Dr Hetzel achieved his initial research breakthroughs into iodine deficiencies back in the late 1960s. The QEH is also closely affiliated with the University of Adelaide from both a teaching and research perspective.

QEH staff members Professor John Beltrame and Professor Dick Ruffin, both from the University of Adelaide, were present at the unveiling, along with artist Avril Thomas.

"Dr Hetzel has been associated with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for more than 40 years and the staff here are immensely proud of his achievements," Professor Beltrame said.

"His portrait now hangs with distinction in the building named in his honour in 2001."
Dr Hetzel said he was flattered and honoured by the portrait, which was a candidate for the 2010 Archibald Prize, one of Australia's oldest and most prestigious portrait awards.

Avril Thomas thoroughly researched Dr Hetzel's life before beginning his portrait.

"From the first sitting I was determined to convey his personality and his life's work through the painting. Hopefully I have achieved that," she said.

The 88-year-old pioneering researcher gained his undergraduate medical degree from the University of Adelaide in 1944 and completed his postgraduate degree in 1949.

After a spell in New York (as a Fulbright Scholar) and London, he returned to the University to serve as Reader and then Michell Professor of Medicine at the QEH from 1956-1968. During this time his team started working with a team of researchers in Papua New Guinea to correct maternal iodine deficiencies, which were found to cause brain damage among newborns.

That research has been the mainstay of his life's work, leading to a global campaign in support of salt iodisation programs aimed at eliminating iodine deficiency worldwide.

Today, approximately 90 countries with significant iodine deficiency have a salt iodisation program in place, protecting millions of children around the world.

Story by Candy Gibson

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From left: Professor John Beltrame, Dr Basil Hetzel AC, artist Avril Thomas and Professor Dick Ruffin flank the portrait, which now hangs in the Basil Hetzel Institute for Medical Research at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Photo courtesy of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital

From left: Professor John Beltrame, Dr Basil Hetzel AC, artist Avril Thomas and Professor Dick Ruffin flank the portrait, which now hangs in the Basil Hetzel Institute for Medical Research at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Photo courtesy of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital

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