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Aletta Jacobs Prize 2012 for Els Borst

29 August 2011

The Aletta Jacobs Prize 2012 of the University of Groningen will be presented to Dr Els Borst. Els Borst is being awarded the prize in recognition of the nuanced way she has initiated public debate on medical-ethical issues and what she has achieved as a result. Her work can be seen as an extension of the issues in which Aletta Jacobs was involved in her time. The Aletta Jacobs Prize will be presented on 8 March 2012.

Els Borst-Eilers (Amsterdam, 1932) studied medicine at the Municipal University of Amsterdam (currently the University of Amsterdam) and then specialized in paediatrics and immunohaematology. In 1972 she was awarded a PhD by the same university.
Among her jobs have been research assistant at Utrecht University, head of the Blood Bank and medical director of the University Hospital in Utrecht. Between 1986 and 1994 she was vice chair of the Health Council of the Netherlands and from 1992-1994 also professor by special appointment in evaluation research into clinical treatment at the Amsterdam Medical Centre of the University of Amsterdam.

Between 1994 and 2002 Els Borst was Minister of Public Health, Welfare and Sport. In 1998 she was the lead candidate for D66 in the Dutch parliamentary elections. In addition, she has held and holds many management positions in healthcare, including several chairmanships.

Influence as a minister

As a minister, Els Borst drew attention to many medical-ethical issues, including drugs policy, smoking discouragement policy, euthanasia, embryo research, patient rights, nutrition and alcohol abuse. Many of the policies proposed by Els Borst resulted in legislation. One of her major policy victories was a change to the Tobacco Act in 2002. This linked the sale of tobacco products to an age limit of 16 years, forbade cigarette advertising and smoking in public areas and gave employees the right to a smoke-free working environment.


When a minister, Els Borst showed that she had nerve, could be innovative and was not afraid of initiating public debate on a number of very sensitive issues. She always did this with the necessary reservations and nuances. She is characterized by a distinctive style, openness and her own vision. This was not always appreciated because she drew attention to issues that others experienced as painful and difficult and which they preferred to remain silent about. The innovative manner that she drew attention to social issues in a humane way makes her a true ‘Aletta Jacobs’.

The Aletta Jacobs Prize will be presented to Els Borst on 8 March 2012 by the Rector Magnificus of the University of Groningen, Prof. Elmer Sterken, in the Academy Building. The prize is being awarded within the framework of a programme related to Healthy Ageing. Pupils from the Aletta Jacobs College in Hoogezand will also be involved in the programme.

Note for the press

For more information: University of Groningen Communication Office, tel. 050-363 4444, e-mail:

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.30 p.m.
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