Health chief Michael Dickson said he was “astonished” and “overwhelmed” to have been awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours List.
The award has been made in recognition of his services to healthcare in his role as NHS Shetland chief executive during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Dickson, who was told about the award just before Christmas, said it came as a complete surprise.
“I was asked to make an urgent phone call,” he said.
“When they told me what it was about I was absolutely overwhelmed.
“It’s an indescribable feeling because it’s so completely unexpected.
“I didn’t know anything about it.
“Even to be put forward for it was incredible but to be offered the award was absolutely astonishing.”
Mr Dickson said it would not have been possible without the incredible work of his NHS Shetland colleagues – and the wider community.
“It’s not just about me,” he said.
“This was the whole response by everyone at NHS Shetland who were facing a completely unknown future at the time.”
Looking back to the start of the pandemic, when Mr Dickson was just a few weeks into his role, he said it was a hugely worrying time.
“I remember travelling down to Edinburgh where the chief executives were being briefed about what we were expecting to face,” he said.
“It was very stark.
“We were looking at many thousands of deaths in a short period of time, while health services would be potentially overwhelmed.
“I’ve described it as the worst day in my NHS career.
“To come back as a new chief executive to a community I’ve only just moved to with potentially terrifying news was not something I was looking forward to.”
Early on in the pandemic, Shetland was among the hardest hit communities in all of Europe.
And with little access to specialist equipment or testing facilities, Mr Dickson said it was a massive challenge for everyone.
Twice, the RAF was called in to fly seriously unwell patients to hospital.
But despite the pressures, Mr Dickson said Shetland rose to the challenge.
“I remember going through the Gilbert Bain Hospital and seeing staff learning how to use respirators to ventilate patients,” he said.
“There was an absolute focus.
“Everyone realised that we’ve got to do the right thing for our population in unprecedented times.”
Mr Dickson will be officially made an Officer of the “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” by a high ranking member of the Royal family at ceremony to be held either at Holyrood House or Buckingham Palace.
Recipients in the New Year Honours List have been awarded for their outstanding contributions across all parts of the UK for their work on areas including sustained public service, youth engagement and community work.
A full interview with Michael Dickson will appear in the next edition of The Shetland Times.