Published Thursday 16 Jun 2022

On Queen’s Birthday, Hutt Valley and Capital & Coast District Health Board’s (DHB) Chief Medical Officer John Tait was appointed as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit; however, he thought the prestigious honour was all a hoax at first!

John had another reason to celebrate the long weekend when he was appointed as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit as part of the Queen’s Birthday and Platinum Jubilee Honours on 6 June, recognised for his services to Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

John, well-known as a fierce advocate for women’s rights and access to safe and equitable healthcare, has been part of the Hutt Valley and Capital & Coast DHBs since 1986. He joined as a Specialist in Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the Wellington Women’s Hospital and as a Clinical Senior Lecturer at the Wellington Medical School (University of Otago), after starting his career in medicine as a House Surgeon in 1975.

Asked how he initially reacted to receiving the honour, John said it took him a while to believe he had been given anything in the first place.

“It was a total surprise. To the point when I first saw the email I thought it was a hoax. Then I replied and said yes I would accept it, but I did not really believe it until I got the formal letter.”

Well, the formal letter did arrive, giving John one of the highest distinctions you can acquire in Aotearoa.

After it all sunk in, John said he felt honoured to receive such an award, but also paid tribute to his colleagues, past and present, who have played a big part in his illustrious career.

“To receive such an award is a very big deal to me. It is a great honour and I feel very humbled. But I will also say I have been incredibly lucky to have worked with a whole lot of marvellous people in the DHB and the various committees over the years who have all contributed to my contribution that ended up with the Award. It is your peers who acknowledge you so I think that is the most important thing because someone must have nominated me. So I have had a very lucky career.”

John has held several positions within the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) governance and committee structure, most notably, Te Kāhui Oranga ō Nuku (RANZCOG New Zealand Committee), RANZCOG Council and Board, and serving seven years as RANZCOG Vice-President.

Throughout his career, John has been a part of many ground-breaking women’s health changes which he said were some of the biggest highlights of his profession.

“I have always loved delivering babies. I have also always tried to be as patient-centred as I could be, and I have always had a passion for women’s health. In my latter years on some of those committees we have fought very much for changes in women’s health.”

In 2003, John became the Clinical Director of the Women’s Health Service. This involved migrating the Women’s Health Service into a new hospital, which was successfully completed in 2009. This led to his appointment as Executive Clinical Director, Women’s Children and Surgical Directorate in 2010 and promotion to the CCDHB Chief Medical Officer in 2016.

He added – “I have been very fortunate working through a career where there were lots of innovations, and being at the forefront of those innovations was incredibly good too with laparoscopic surgery, ultrasound, and advances in neo-natal care, all of which occurred during my time. So it was rewarding to be involved in all those changes.”

Hutt Valley and Capital & Coast DHB’s Chief Executive Fionnagh Dougan was delighted for John’s appointment to the New Zealand Order of Merit.

“On behalf of the 2DHBs and ELT, I want to congratulate John for his recent honour. He has done an amazing job, especially during difficult times, and is rightfully deserving of this acknowledgment.”

Others alongside John to receive Queen’s Birthday honours from the public health sector was Dr Brian Betty (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Health) and Reverend Hiueni Nuku (The Queen’s Service Medal for Services to Tongan and Pacific Communities) – both from the Porirua Union and Community Health Service.

Dr Betty would be a familiar face to many as he is regularly in front of the camera for news bulletins due to his role as the Medical Director for the Royal New Zealand College of GPs.

Dr Betty is also a current Tū Ora Compass Health Board member, Chair of the Tū Ora VLCA (very low-cost access) committee and a specialist general practitioner. He has spent the last 20 years working at Porirua Union and Community Health Service in Cannons Creek Porirua, a suburb that represents some of this region’s highest priority communities.

Reverend Nuku, is the Practice Manager at Porirua Union Health Service, and this Award is a well-deserved recognition of his work for the community.

The Hutt Valley and Capital & Coast District Health Board’s congratulate both Dr Betty and Reverend Nuku on their Awards.