SAHMRI. Inspired research, better health for all.
7 February, 2017

Celebrating the life of a public health trailblazer


The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) is saddened by the news that at age 94, Dr Basil Hetzel AC has passed away.

A pioneer in his field:

Dr Hetzel, who grew up in Adelaide, was an Australian medical researcher, renowned for his pioneering work on iodine deficiencies and thyroid disease.

During the 1960s, he led research that established the link between iodine deficiency and brain damage in unborn children. His team discovered that by incorporating iodised salt into the diet, iodine deficiency could be corrected and this would prevent brain damage in unborn children. Since this discovery Dr Hetzel became a public health campaigner on the inclusion of iodised salt in the diet. 

Between 1992 and 1998 he was also the Chancellor at one of SAHMRI’s partner organisations, the University of South Australia. Dr Hetzel became an international advocate for iodine supplementation, which aided the creation of the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD), and he also served as South Australia's Lieutenant Governor from 1992 to 2000.

A loss for South Australia:

SAHMRI’s Executive Director, Professor Steve Wesselingh, said that Dr Hetzel leaves an incredible legacy.

“Dr Hetzel’s work into iodine deficiency has impacted on two billion people in 130 countries and prevented millions of children from being born with brain damage,” he said.

“His vision and passion changed the life of so many people, for the better.”

“Dr Hetzel lived a remarkable 94 years, and we are so proud to call him a South Australian. His life and achievements should be celebrated. ” 

“Our thoughts are with Dr Hetzel’s family and friends during this time.”

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SAHMRI is located on the traditional lands of the Kaurna people.

The SAHMRI community acknowledges and pays respect to the Kaurna people as the traditional custodians of the Adelaide region. We also acknowledge the deep feelings of attachment and the relationship of the Kaurna people to their country. We pay our respects to the Kaurna peoples' ancestors and the living Kaurna people today.