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Dr Paul Johns

Thousands of Special Olympics New Zealand athletes and volunteers owe their health and sanity to Dr Paul Johns.

The Dunedin-based general practitioner and sports doctor has been involved with Special Olympics New Zealand since 1999 when he joined the New Zealand team travelling to the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games in North Carolina, USA as Team Doctor. He reprised the role at the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, Ireland, 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai, China, and the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece.
“Dr Paul”, as he is affectionately known by our athletes, has been an instrumental in selecting athletes for World Summer and Winter Games, ensuring the athletes are capable medically, physically, and psychologically for the rigours of international travel and sports competition. He has offered vital advice when needed with regard to vaccinations for travelling teams, management of team members’ medical conditions, and Special Olympics New Zealand’s suitable response to worldwide epidemics (such as the SARS virus).
Dr Paul’s preparation is second to none. As Team Doctor he would prepare for international sports competitions months ahead, working with regional teams to document each athlete’s medications, allergies, vaccinations, and to learn more about their medical requirements. He would have detailed flight plans that took into account departure and arrival times, meal times and sleep times. This allowed him to plan precisely when each athlete should take their medications and ensure minimal disruption with time differences. Calm under fire, Dr Paul planned for every contingency and managed some very challenging medical situations overseas.
Dr Paul’s input has always been in a voluntary capacity. He has donated not only his time and expertise but also supplied extremely comprehensive medical and first-aid kits free of charge for all our World Summer and Winter Games teams since 1999. His preparation for and attendance at international events has meant hiring a locum to run his busy Dunedin practice, a cost that he has never begrudged in his endeavour to ensure the health and wellbeing of our team members.
In 2013 Dr Paul handed over the reins as medical advisor to two other GPs but has remained very involved with Special Olympics New Zealand. He was influential in the appointment of the Team Doctor for the Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games New Zealand team, and recently provided input into the development of the revised Athlete Medical Forms.
Dr Paul is well deserving of this Distinguished Service Award.
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