RECORD REWIND: Hero of health


Siegfried (Sigi) Kotz was born of missionary parents in Africa. At the age of four his family moved to Switzerland and Germany before emigrating to the United States when he was 10. Interested in health issues from an early age, he graduated from medicine at Loma Linda University in 1940. During his time there as a student, he married Ethel Carr and to this union were born three children: Arlagene, Darlene and Siegfried Jnr (Freddy). 

Over the next decade Siegfried spent a lot of time in post-graduate study collecting a number of prestigious academic awards—too many to list here. After spending some years in private and hospital medical practice, Siegfried and his family accepted a call to missionary service in Africa where he was medical director at several hospitals. It was during that time he was ordained to the gospel ministry. After a couple of years living back in the United States, Siegfried was called to be the medical secretary of the Australasian field—and it is because of his sterling work in that role that he’s best remembered. 

The Church always has more plans—lobbied with enthusiasm by its departmental directors—than money to realise them, but Sigi Kotz had the exceptional ability to not only get his dreams heard, but funded and implemented.

Dr Siegfried was deeply committed to promoting the Adventist health lifestyle, not only within the Church but particularly to the wider public. He made sure Australian physicians such as Errol Thrift had an opportunity to visit health lifestyle centres in Europe and systematically worked to bring the health outreach of the Church to prominence in every conference and mission, all strongly supported and funded from the Division headquarters in Wahroonga, Sydney. 

In 1963, Greater Sydney became the first conference to have a full-time medical secretary: Pastor Eric Hon. In 1964, the Trans Tasman Union became the first union to have a full-time health secretary when it called Pastor Hon to that role, with Pastor Ward Nolan replacing him in Greater Sydney. During 1964 part-time medical secretaries were appointed for each of the other unions and in many of the local missions in the Coral Sea and Bismark-Solomons Unions. Many churches appointed local health secretaries. The first ever medical council for the Division was held along with similar pioneering medical councils in Greater Sydney, a Medico-Ministerial Council and a Church Workers’ Council. 

The department of Physical Medicine at Warburton (Victoria) was upgraded and Dr Thrift sent overseas for specialist education. A School of Hygiene and Public Health was established at Sopas Hospital in Papua New Guinea (PNG) under the direction of Dr Robert Wood. 

In cooperation with the Sanitarium Health Food Company, cooking demonstrations were promoted, particularly by Pastors Hon and Nolan. These demonstrations became a new feature of camp meeting programs and in local churches. Medical samples and equipment were collected in a systematic way, particularly at the San Hospital and Warburton, and shipped out to the South Pacific mission field. Meetings with the Sanitarium leadership led to strategies being developed to make each retail shop “more effective as a health education centre”. 

Five Day Plans to stop smoking proliferated and chaplains were appointed to Adventist hospitals “for greater patient impact”. Health education materials were prepared by Sanitarium, the hospitals and temperance departments for the use of churches. Public health tapes were prepared. Sopas began training nurses for service beyond PNG. New Life-Health lessons were prepared for use by the Australian Voice of Prophecy radio program.

In reading the minutes from the meetings of the time two things become very apparent about Sigi Kotz: he was a dynamic health leader and educator who achieved an incredible amount in just four years; and his denominational promotional skills are very evident. 

The Church always has more plans—lobbied with enthusiasm by its departmental directors—than money to realise them, but Sigi Kotz had the exceptional ability to not only get his dreams heard, but funded and implemented. He rallied church leaders at all levels—the minutes of his various conferences and committees list those attending as a veritable “who’s who” of the Church at the time.

Thus, the sudden death of Dr Siegfried from a heart attack on March 5, 1967 at only 52 years of age was an enormous loss, not only to his family but to the Church and its health ministry as well.

Dr Lester Devine is director emeritus of the Ellen G White/Adventist Research Centre at Avondale College of Higher Education.