The Minister of Health of the IV Constitutional Government of Timor-Leste, Dr. Nelson Martins, was recently awarded a position of Adjunct Professor by the University of Sydney at the Sydney Medical School. The appointment was made public in August 2011 and was judged by the University of Sydney selection panel for the award following recommendations from three distinguished Professors from Sydney University, The University of New South Wales and the Australian National University, who have worked closely with the Timorese Doctor and Minister of Health on several research assignments.
When asked why the University of Sydney made this decision, the Dean of Sydney Medical School, Professor Bruce Robinson, responds that “Minister Nelson Martins’ strong and active research background, with expertise in infectious disease and primary health care development as well as his in-sight knowledge and experience of Timor-Leste health sector would be an asset to Sydney Medical School”.
As the first Timorese doctor ever to be awarded this title by a highly prestigious university, Dr. Nelson Martins was also the first to ever complete PhD studies in a medical field completed in 2006 at Charles Darwin University, and he has provided important new knowledge on public health strategies in tuberculosis control which led to several publications in high impact journals including the British Medical Journal.
Minister Nelson Martins completed a Masters of Health Management in 2002 at the University of Newcastle, as well as a Graduate Certificate of Population Health in Australia. When asked about the appointment, he replies “it is a proud moment for me as professional, but most importantly for this Government as it leads the way in supporting professional development so that every Timorese is given the opportunity to access education and achieve their full professional potential by working hard”.
The recently published UN Human Development Report 2011 has noted significant progress in health development and attributed many of these gains to roll out of the Ministry of Health’s primary health care program (SISCa) which was conceived and led by Minister Martins.
Despite his political position and role at the present time, Dr. Martins is strongly committed to scholarship, independent research, open evaluation and transparency in assessing health system achievements. It is to his great credit that a Cabinet for Health Research and Development has been established in Timor-Leste and will be built up over time.
In his reference letter in support of the award, Professor Anthony Zwi from the University of New South Wales states that “Dr. Martins stimulates and promotes research and invites critical analysis of policy and health system developments with which he is involved…. He is a deep-thinking, analytic and reflective practitioner, willing to have the institutions, services, and policies which he promotes, subjected to independent analysis and assessment. Such willingness to promote policy and health system research is rare amongst senior policy makers in the health field, in any country, and is to be commended”.
The Associate Dean of Sydney Medical School and Director of Office for Global Health, Associate Professor Lyndal Travena, supported the appointment because she believes that “He encapsulates a rare combination of academic achievement, and leadership in health policy, practice and management. We have recently written and submitted a paper together on the development of the primary health care SISCa program and I can attest to his talent and academic rigour”.
This award adds testament to the numerous recognitions by the international bodies given to distinguished Timorese officials. It is an eye opener for the people of Timor-Leste in understanding the value of good works, commitment to professional development throughout the route towards developing the nation out of poverty. It shall be honoured by the people of Timor-Leste and, particularly for the academic channels to learn from, as a means to encouraging individual and institutional development!