2023: AAHMS highlights

From welcoming our 100th mentee, to contributing to the nation’s policy priorities: the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences has had a significant year. Here are some highlights of our work during 2023.

Life as a Clinician-Scientist inspires record-breaking audiences

A record-breaking 1000 people registered for our six Life as a Clinician-Scientist events in 2023, which included two online and four in-person symposiums. The program is designed to encourage and inspire medical, health and science students, junior clinicians and early-career researchers to pursue a career as a clinician-scientist.

The Academy also launched a Life as a Clinician-Scientist newsletter, Hypothesis, with more than 1100 people subscribing in the first six months. Subscribe to the newsletter and find out more about the program on our website.

Enhancing this program was an important commitment we made in our 2022 report, Research and innovation as core functions in transforming the health system: A vision for the future of health in Australia, and following up this report has remained a priority throughout 2023

You can find photo galleries from each event on our Facebook page, or catch-up on any sessions you missed by visiting our video library.

Graphic recorder Debbie Woods attended several of our events, capturing the key themes and topics in real time. See some of her work below.

Expert evidence to guide long COVID response

Defining long COVID and understanding knowledge gaps about the condition and its impacts in Australia were among the major themes discussed at an expert roundtable discussion held at Parliament House in February.

AAHMS, in partnership with the Academy of Science, organised the roundtable and a joint submission to inform the House Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport’s Inquiry into Long COVID and Repeated COVID Infections.

It was the first time the two Academies have jointly convened a roundtable to provide expert, independent advice to a parliamentary inquiry.

Read the key points from the discussion in our summary on the news page.

Outstanding First Nations Researcher Medal

The Academy launched the Outstanding First Nations Researcher Medal in 2023, to be awarded for the first time in 2024.

The award recognises an outstanding mid-career researcher of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent, who is an emerging research leader working and making an impactful contribution in the health and medical sciences in Australia.

Recipients will receive a Medal and a travel grant of $10,000, thanks to the support of sponsor Bellberry. Learn more about the award on our website.

Supporting Indigenous health and wellbeing is a priority for AAHMS and an area in which we continue to grow our activities. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples were the nation’s first scientists. The Academy values their contributions and is committed to respecting and amplifying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ perspectives.

In May, the Academy released a statement supporting the establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. You can read the full statement of support on our news page.

The medal is currently being designed using the work of Teho Ropeyarn, an artist and curator from Injinoo, Cape York Peninsula.

AAHMS calls for big picture strategy to improve health research and innovation

The Academy is advocating for a bold strategic vision to ensure investments deliver benefits for health, society and the economy. In July, we called for called for the Government to look at the big picture when considering the future of health and medical research funding.

In a submission the Government’s consultation on improving alignment and coordination between the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and Medical Research Endowment Account (MREA), AAHMS advocated for better mechanisms to embed research and innovation as core functions of the health system.

Find summary of key areas and our full submission in this news story.

Jian Zhou Medallists

A ground-breaking immunologist and a leading childhood cancer clinician were recognised for their incredible impact in translational medicine with the Academy’s Jian Zhou Medal.

Melbourne’s Professor Laura Mackay FAHMS (University of Melbourne, the Doherty Institute) and Sydney’s Professor David Ziegler (UNSW, the Children’s Cancer Research Institute, and the Kid’s Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital) were named recipients of the annual award in September.

Professor Mackay discovered our body’s first responders – immune T cells in skin, gut and other barriers. Now she’s working out how to both supercharge these cells to better fight infection and cancer, and to calm them down to avoid autoimmune disease.

Read more about her work in our media release.

Professor Ziegler plans to be able to improve treatment for every child with cancer. He’s working in the clinic to trial treatments for the fatal brain stem tumour DIPG, Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. He is also driving the development of the national Zero Childhood Cancer (ZERO) project – to give every child with cancer the best chance of an effective treatment.

Learn more about Professor Ziegler in our media release.

Celebrating supporting 100 rising research stars

The Academy welcomed its 100th mentee in 2023, with 19 rising health and medical research stars joining the Academy’s mentorship program over the year.

The AAHMS mentorship program was launched shortly after the Academy’s inception in 2015, with a goal of nurturing future leaders and supporting them in their careers.

Mentees are paired with an Academy Fellow mentor and become Associate Members of the Academy for three years, allowing them access to training, support and networking opportunities.

We welcomed new mentees in March and September, bringing the total number of mentees who have taken part in the program to 100.

Meet our outstanding Associate Members in our March and September news stories.

Scientist dedicated to reducing harm wins national award

Professor Rachelle Buchbinder AO FAHMS won the 2023 Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences Outstanding Female Researcher Medal.

Professor Buchbinder is a world-renowned rheumatologist and clinical epidemiologist who revolutionised the way the public and health practitioners treat and manage back pain. 

“The main driver for me has always been around improving health, both at the population level but also for the patient sitting in front of me,” Professor Buchbinder said.

Read more about her work in our news story.

Experts propose a path to improve Australia’s mental health

In October, we released a report from a specialist roundtable, chaired by mental health expert and Academy Fellow Professor Maree Teesson AC and award-winning ABC journalist Sana Qadar.

The report highlighted the need for a new system to address mental health which incorporates three components: a national mental health alliance to lead strategic direction; lived experience and community engagement informing all aspects of the system; and a new pipeline that provides efficient and effective pathways to ensure the best care is delivered based on the best evidence.

“A revitalised system built around these three components would build on our strengths, nurture innovation and allow stakeholders to work more closely together to drive forward the necessary change,” Professor Teesson said.

Read more in our news story.

Welcoming 27 new Fellows

An ophthalmologist-scientist, academic psychiatrist and a paediatric anaesthetist were among the 27 new Fellows elected to the Academy in October.

Get to know them in our gallery below, or read more in our news story.

Driving health equity: AAHMS Annual Meeting

In October, our Fellows gathered in Brisbane to exchange ideas, consider the latest research findings, and discuss innovative solutions to improve the health outcomes of disadvantaged populations in Australia.

The two-day event included a variety of expert speakers, including keynotes from Professor Sir Michael Marmot in conversation with Professor Fran Baum AO FAHMS and Professor James Ward.

Find a gallery of photos from the event on our facebook page, or watch key videos in our video library.

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