Boston
December 30, 2020 10.05 am

The Lincolnite Person of the Year: Jonathan Van Tam

A “Van-tastic” achievement

Boston-born Jonathan Van Tam, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, has become known for his colourful metaphors and straight forward nature when delivering the latest news about the coronavirus pandemic.

From late-minute equaliser goals, to waiting for a train and how coronavirus is not like a yoghurt, he has brought us the details in easy to understand and rarely convoluted messages.

He once said while answering public questions during a BBC interview: “It’s clear in the first half, the away team gave us an absolute battering, and what we’ve done now is the 70th minute, they got a goal, and in the 70th minute we’ve now got an equaliser.

“Okay, we’ve got to hold our nerve now, see if we can get another goal and nick it. But the key thing is not to lose it, not to throw it away at this point because we’ve got a point on the board, and we’ve got the draw.”

He also at one point likened the results from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine trials to a penalty shoot-out.

However, Mr Van Tam, known affectionately as JVT — a name Prime Minister Boris Johnson has used to refer to him during press briefings — has also not been afraid to warn people about hard times ahead.

Mr Van Tam, of Vietnamese descent, grew up in the Lincolnshire town and attended Boston Grammar School where his father was a teacher.

He graduated from the University of Nottingham in 1987 and has since had an illustrious career in public health and medicine, including returning to the university as a Clinical Senior Lecturer in 1997 and as a Clinical Professor of Health Protection in 2007.

His roles have also included Consultant Epidemiologist and Head of the Pandemic Influenza Office at the UK Health Protection Agency in 2004 and chairman of the UK New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threat Advisory Group (NERVTAG) from 2014 to 2017.

He has also at several points advised the World Health Organisation and the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

He was given an MBE in 1998’s New Year’s Honours for his work designing medical kits for large groups of teenagers on camping expeditions.

He had worked with the Lincolnshire Army Cadets since 1988.

Mr Van Tam is also a dedicated supporter and season ticket holder of his home-town team Boston United, perhaps where he gets his football analogies from.

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