The establishment of an academy of health and medical sciences in Australia, independent of government and able to speak authoritatively with a high level of expertise, was initially proposed by Professor Warwick Anderson in 2012. A small group of eminent medical research leaders began to consider such an organisation and to develop the concept into a reality. Professor Ed Byrne, Vice-Chancellor, Monash University proposed to his colleagues from the Group of Eight universities that such an organisation would be valuable in the Australian context, and that Go8 should support its development. In November 2013, a Development Committee of active health and medical research leaders met to establish the foundations of the Academy. They acknowledged the many important bodies and organisations in health and medical sciences in Australia, with whom the Academy would to work to achieve their objectives.
The Academy was set up to serve the three purposes identified as high priority in the 2013 Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research (the McKeon Report):
Mentoring the next generation of clinician researchers
Providing independent advice to government and others on issues relating to evidence based medical practice and medical researchers
Providing a forum for discussion on progress on medical research with an emphasis on translation of research into practice
This development phase was greatly facilitated by the Commonwealth Department of Health, the National Health and Medical Research Council, and the Group of Eight Universities. A Steering Committee was established to oversee the development. Members were Professors Ian Frazer, James Angus, Warwick Anderson, and John Horvath, supported by Dr Patricia Ridgway (NHMRC) and Alan Mackay (Go8). There were valuable consultations with a range of other key organisations, including the UK Academy of Medical Science.
In June 2014, the Academy of Health and Medical Sciences was formally established. A committee of eminent senior health and medical scientists, chaired by Professor Richard Larkins, was formed to consider and recommend an initial Council of Fellows of the Academy.
The Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences was established as a legal entity, with initial Directors being Professors Frazer, Anderson, Fiona Wood and Mr Alan Mackay. The Academy has been registered as a not-for-profit charity and continues to increase its Fellowship, develop work programs, plan specific initiatives to meet its objectives, and exercise a presence advising the community and governments about health and medical issues, under the patronage of Professor Sir Gustav Nossal.
The first meeting of the Council was held on 13 June 2014, at the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra. That meeting elected Professor Ian Frazer as inaugural President, and Professor Ingrid Scheffer as Vice-President. Other members of the Academy Council Executive, elected at that meeting, were Professor Nicholas Talley (Hon Treasurer); Professor Steven Wesselingh (Public Officer), and Professors Simon Foote and Robyn Ward. The Academy sought proposals for the first election of Fellows from universities, medical research institutes, specialist medical colleges, and other organisations, during the second half of 2014. Submissions and referee letters were considered, and 116 fellows were elected.