John Charles Jamieson Stoke FFOM, FAFOM, FAFPHM, MCCM MBBS, DIH (1928–2000) was a pioneer in Occupational Medicine in New Zealand, with influence in the Asia/Pacific region. He was Director of Public Health in New Zealand from 1986 to 1987.*

John was born on 14 August 1928, in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England. His upbringing was heavily influenced by three main factors. These were a very strong Presbyterian set of values, his father’s work ethic, and the great depression. He remembered going to church and Sunday school and being forced to read books when he wanted to go out and to play. He also clearly remembered the day his father came home from work and told the family that his salary had been cut by 20% as a result of the depression. When WW2 broke out, the family had to move from Essex for safety reasons. Despite disruptions in schooling, John gained a scholarship and went to school at the King Edward 6th Grammar School in Guildford. He sat his matriculation exam in 1944 and passed with distinction in history, Latin, and maths. In 1946, John was accepted for medical training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the heart of London. He travelled each day by train from the family home.

After graduating John did “house appointments” in hospitals (1952–53), and then became a Surgeon Lieutenant in the Royal Navy (1953–57). During this time John met Bernice and they were married in 1954. In 1958, they moved to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). John initially worked as a general practitioner in rural areas. During this time he became involved in leprosy work.

After a period as a GP, John became Senior Medical Officer in the Royal Rhodesian Air Force, and developed his interest in Occupational and Preventive Medicine. John became a lecturer in Preventive Medicine at the University of Rhodesia, where he worked until 1976. In 1975 he returned to England on sabbatical, and did post-graduate work in Occupational Medicine.

When the political situation in Rhodesia deteriorated, he decided to migrate in 1976, and was offered a position in New Zealand. John initially was Senior Medical Officer with the Ministry of Transport, and then joined the Ministry of Health, with responsibility for Occupational Health. In 1981 he undertook a World Health Organisation (WHO) fellowship, studying the effect of political and socioeconomic systems on occupational health. In 1986 he was appointed Director of Public Health in New Zealand. During this time he also did some lecturing in community health at the Wellington branch of Otago Medical School, and was active in the Asia/Pacific branch of the WHO.

In 1987, complications from cataract surgery resulted in his retirement from the Ministry of Health. After some months of convalescence, his vision improved sufficiently for him to work again, and he was appointed co-ordinator of the Occupational Health Task Force of the National Health Institute. He retired again in 1989. John’s work with the World Health Organisation continued after his retirement. He undertook assignments in Western Pacific, China, Vietnam and Papua New Guinea. He died unexpectedly on 27 July 2000, in Auckland.

He touched the lives of many of us in the fields of occupational and aviation medicine in New Zealand, and in 2001 the John Stoke Medal was established by ANZSOM, in his honour. Recipients since then are listed here.

* – The above is, in part, extracted from Wikipedia, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stoke.

John Stoke Medal awards

for Excellence in Occupational Medicine Practice: –

2001 – Chris Walls
2002 – James Keir Howard
2003 – Ngaire Smidt
2004 – Evan Dryson
2005 – Edwin Whiteside
2006 – Bill Glass
2007 – John Kerr, QSM
2008 – nil
2009 – nil
2010 – David Waite
2011 – Mike Anderson
2012 – Rob Griffiths
2013 – Simon Ryder-Lewis
2014 – nil
2015 – Peter Dodwell
2016 – John Guthrie