Tribute to Professor George Patton FAHMS

Professor George Patton FAHMS was an internationally respected adolescent psychiatrist and epidemiologist who helped to revolutionise our understanding of the unique adolescence developmental stage and shape adolescent health policies worldwide.

It is with great sadness that we share news of his passing – a loss that will be felt across the adolescent health field in Australia and beyond.

Elected to the Academy in 2021, Professor Patton’s expertise and leadership were recognised globally. He served as a consultant and advisor to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank, including advising WHO’s Director General on adolescent health.

He was chair of the 2016 Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing, having previously led two series on adolescent health for the journal. He recently led a series on adolescent growth and nutrition and was engaged for a further Lancet Commission report to appear in 2023.

Professor Patton’s global contributions reflected 30 years of research leadership in Australia at the Centre for Adolescent Health, a collaboration between Murdoch Children’s Research Institute campus partners, The Royal Children’s Hospital and The University of Melbourne.

His research included long-term cohort studies focused on mental health, substance use, sexual health and more recently, COVID-19. His research also focused on disadvantaged young Australians including those in youth justice settings, those experiencing homelessness, and young people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage.

Professor Patton was a much-loved member of the team at the Centre for Adolescent Health, with his colleagues writing: “George was unfailingly committed to the highest scientific standards and was piercingly creative and rigorous in how he approached research.

“Despite this, he remained a remarkably humble man who was unfailingly generous with his time, ideas and wisdom, characteristics that no doubt explain why he was so sought-after within various global leadership networks. George was equally committed to growing the next generation of research leaders and he supervised and mentored more than 40 PhD and postgraduate scholars.”

Professor Kathryn North, Director of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, said he would be greatly missed.

“George was a great man, an outstanding researcher and a wonderful talent. His advocacy for adolescents and for mental health has had international impact and is a great legacy. He will be greatly missed by all of his great friends and colleagues at MCRI,” she said.

We extend our sincere condolences to his wife, Professor Susan Sawyer, family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.

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