The now-famous face of New Zealand’s health system throughout the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic has a new job.
Former director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will serve as a professor at the University of Auckland, where he’ll help establish and then chair its new Public Policy Impact Institute.
Bloomfield, who in April stepped down as New Zealand’s top health official after four years in the job, begins his new role on January 31.
He was looking forward to working alongside colleagues at the university’s School of Population Health.
“The proposed Public Policy Impact Institute is a great opportunity to strengthen the link between the University’s world-class research and the development and implementation of policy,” he said.
“The intent is clear – to help improve a range of social and economic outcomes in Aotearoa with a strong focus on equity.”
Vice-Chancellor Professor Dawn Freshwater said Bloomfield’s new position was a natural progression following his extensive public health career, culminating in his leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Professor Bloomfield brings enormous experience to the university,” she said.
“We look forward to him joining the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and also using his public policy expertise to build our new Public Policy Impact Institute.”
It’s something of a homecoming for the father of three, who graduated from the University of Auckland in 1997 with a Masters of Public Health with first-class honours.
After spending much of the 1990s as a public health specialist, his rise to become director-general in 2018 included stints as the ministry’s chief public health adviser and head of the Hutt Valley and Capital and Coast DHBs.
Then came Covid-19.
Back in early February 2020, Bloomfield was pushing the Government to expand the limited travel ban it had in place.
But it was the daily 1pm briefings that brought him into the limelight.
Ordinary Kiwis were taken and reassured by Bloomfield’s remarkable savoir-faire - something less surprising to colleagues who already knew him as measured, methodical and hyper-competent.
For many, admiration gave way to adoration, and the so-nicknamed “Curve Crusher” found himself the unlikely subject of fawning TikTok videos, media stories and fan accounts on Twitter.
As former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer wrote in an opinion piece in The Spinoff: “It is a long time since a public servant has become so well-known.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said of Bloomfield on the day her frequent companion at the Beehive lectern announced his resignation: “Through his tireless dedication, his focus on people, his calm and considered approach - he has been a true public servant.”