Cartoon image of a man showing his arm where he received a vaccination

Dr Nikki Turner’s work in immunisation during the COVID-19 pandemic has been recognised with a top award.

A Wellington-based GP and Medical Director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC), Dr Turner has been honoured with Distinguished Fellowship of The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

Announcing the award this week, the College said Dr Turner’s experience and clinical interest in immunisation and equity within primary and public health had led her to become a sought after and respected voice within the profession.

“Dr Turner’s work in this field throughout the COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role as she provided all levels of the health workforce – from government, peers, patients and the public – with calm, professional and sound advice around Aotearoa’s COVID-19 vaccination response,” said College President Dr Samantha Murton.

“Her desire to see health equity and eliminate child poverty has been a big driver throughout her career. Nikki truly epitomises the role of a general practitioner. We are thankful that she chose this vocation where she can work on the frontline of community medicine, alongside her national roles, and truly make a difference to the lives of her patients.”

Dr Turner says she is humbled by the Distinguished Fellowship.

“What a privilege to have been able to be a part of such rich and important work. I work with an amazing team of passionate people who get out of bed every morning to support the health of our communities. Never was it more clear about what a difference we can do to support better outcomes for our communities than through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Immunisation is a passion for Dr Turner, who founded IMAC in 1997 in response to low immunisation coverage and equity gaps in New Zealand’s immunisation programmes. Twenty six years on, it continues to provide factual research-based scientific information on vaccine-preventable diseases and the benefits and risks of immunisation in Aotearoa.

As well as her role as Medical Director of IMAC, Dr Turner is a GP who works for NUHS Broadway in Wellington, where many patients are immigrants and refugees with complex health needs.

She is a professor at the University of Auckland in the Department of General Practice and Primary Care and a health spokesperson for the Child Poverty Action Group, as well as being a member of many national and international advisory research groups.

She is a principal investigator of the Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effectiveness Research and Surveillance (SHIVERS) project – a multi-centre and multi-disciplinary research collaboration between IMAC, the University of Auckland, ESR and UniServices – aimed at measuring the effectiveness of vaccination for influenza and other respiratory infectious diseases.

This year, five Fellows of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners received Distinguished Fellowship, which is awarded for outstanding service to the College or Division of Rural Hospital Medicine’s work and for making a sustained contribution to general practice, medicine, or the health and wellbeing of the community. You can read more about the other Fellows here