Bloomfield acknowledges Sir Arthur’s legacy ahead of visit


Dr Ashley Bloomfield visits Whanganui on 19 November.

16 November 2020 



New Zealand Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says it is an honour to be invited to Whanganui to give the Porritt Lecture.


Dr Bloomfield will be in Whanganui on Thursday 19 November and at 7pm that evening will deliver the annual public lecture named after Sir Arthur Espie Porritt, who followed an outstanding medical career by becoming New Zealand’s governor-general and being elevated to the House of Lords in the UK.


“I always enjoy visiting Whanganui and I’m very much looking forward to being there for the Porritt Lecture,” said Dr Bloomfield, who has become a familiar face fronting the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


“Sir Arthur Porritt made an outstanding contribution to public service in New Zealand, as well as to medicine in the United Kingdom and to international sport.


“It’s an honour to be asked to reflect on this, 120 years after his birth in Whanganui.”


Sir Arthur Porritt Credit: Bassano Ltd © National Portrait Gallery, London

Born in Whanganui in 1900, Sir Arthur attended Collegiate School before studying medicine at Oxford University. He became a distinguished surgeon at St Mary’s Hospital in London and served with the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War II


He went on to become surgeon to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II, and was president of both the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Surgeons of England – the first person to hold the roles simultaneously.


In 1967 he became the first New Zealand-born governor-general and in 1973 he was created a life peer, taking the title Baron Porritt of Wanganui and Hampstead.


Sir Arthur, who died in 1994, aged 93, also had a notable athletics career, winning an Olympic bronze medal at the Paris Games of 1924 and serving on the International Olympic Committee for more than 30 years.


Dr Bloomfield said his visit would also be “an opportunity to recognise the hard work of the Whanganui District Health Board and its staff during 2020.


“COVID-19 has been a challenge for us all, but the commitment from across the health sector and from the team of five million has made the difference.”


Dr Bloomfield’s lecture is at the Whanganui War Memorial Centre and it is free and open to everyone. His topic is: “Lessons, life and leadership from COVID-19.”