Leading haematologist honoured with Jian Zhou Medal

A scientist leading one of the world’s preeminent research programs on global health anaemia control, which has led to the delivery of evidence-based care for children and pregnant mothers worldwide, has received the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences Jian Zhou Medal.

The medal is named in honour of cervical cancer vaccine co-inventor Professor Jian Zhou and is awarded annually to scientists making an impact in translational medical research.

This year’s recipient is Professor Sant-Rayn Pasricha, a haematologist, epidemiologist and molecular biologist who leads the Population Health and Immunity Division at WEHI.

Professor Pasricha was recognised for his outstanding contribution to global anaemia research. His research program aims to reduce anaemia in children and pregnant mothers and has been translated into iron policies by the World Health Organization (WHO) to combat the global burden of anaemia.

Anaemia is a reduction in the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity and affects up to 800 million women and children worldwide. Most of this burden falls to low- and middle-income countries, although anaemia also affects 4.5 per cent of Australians.

Professor Pasricha’s research investigates iron level regulation in the body and involves international field trials looking at different approaches to alleviate anaemia in low- and middle-income countries. His work has led to the development of six WHO guidelines that have been implemented in more than 50 LMIC countries, improving the availability of evidence-based care and helping WHO work towards its target of reducing anaemia by 50% by 2025.

Professor Pasricha said he was honoured to receive the Jian Zhou Medal.

“I’m very grateful for the recognition the Academy has given to the public health, translational and discovery work of my team that is working hard to improve health for the billions of people worldwide impacted by or at risk of anaemia,” he said.

“Anaemia continues to be a poorly understood condition, despite being a global health burden that impacts over 500 million women and up to 300 million children and affects around one million Australians. Being able to better understand the causes of anaemia, and prevent, diagnose and treat it, is vital knowledge that can benefit the health of people of all ages across the world.

“My vision is to eliminate the burden of anaemia around the world, especially in children. It is an honour to be awarded the Jian Zhou medal that commemorates the life and important work of Dr Zhou, whose work has helped millions of people worldwide live longer and healthier lives.”

Jian Zhou Medal selection committee chair Professor Ian Frazer AC said Professor Pasricha’s research on iron deficiency and anaemia had wide-reaching impact.

“The Medal selection committee was impressed by the significant impact on global health of Professor Pasricha’s research, and on his demonstration of the practical benefits for maternal and child health that his research has shown to follow from evidence-based iron supplementation in the developing world,” Professor Frazer said.

AAHMS launched the Jian Zhou Medal in 2020 to recognise rising stars in Australian health and medical science. The award is made possible by a generous donation from the Frazer Family Foundation and the medal is designed and minted by the Royal Australian Mint.

Nominations for the 2023 medal will open in October this year. Learn more about the Jian Zhou Medal.

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