28 of the nation’s top medical and health researchers have been elected as Fellows of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the health and medical research landscape in Australia, including 13 women.
The new Fellows are elected at a time when health and medical science is making a crucial contribution to the nation’s future, as the community works to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of them have been pivotal in this response in Australia and overseas, including:
- Professor Carola Vinuesa FAHMS, an expert immunologist, has been helping to ensure Australia has sufficient COVID-19 testing capacity. She is Professor of Immunology and Head of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Australian National University. With other ANU academics she has led a team that has optimised testing platforms to use saliva testing, which is simpler than obtaining nasal swabs, and has been using robotics to increase testing throughput. They have also developed an antibody test that has been put to use in samples from patients in Victoria who were due to undergo elective surgery – identifying patients who had been previously infected with COVID-19 and had gone undetected. Beyond the pandemic, her research has enhanced our understanding of autoimmune diseases, and her discoveries are being translated into applications that will improve vaccination, eliminate HIV reservoirs and prevent transplant rejection, as well as treat autoimmunity, immunodeficiency, cancer and allergies.
- As Director of Infectious Diseases at The Alfred hospital, Professor Anton Peleg FAHMS has been at the heart of Victoria’s clinical efforts to respond to the pandemic. His leadership of the COVID response at The Alfred has encompassed all facets of models of care, clinical management and treatment decision making, and infection prevention and control. Preventing and responding to healthcare worker infections and outbreaks has been a key priority in hospital and community healthcare settings. He and his team have also developed a portfolio of COVID-19 research, including the largest COVID-19 biobank of clinical samples in Australia and the first community based randomised treatment trial of a new antiviral agent. Apart from COVID-19, his pioneering work on antimicrobial resistance has shaped policy and practice across the world.
The new Fellows will be admitted at the Academy’s sixth annual meeting on 14-16 October, which will be streamed live from Sydney. The annual gathering includes a scientific meeting that will reflect on the pandemic to date, with speakers including Department of Health Secretary and AAHMS Fellow, Professor Brendan Murphy, and NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant PSM.
In addition, Professor Kathryn North has been elected to the Academy’s Executive (Board of Directors), taking its membership to a majority of women for the first time, including the President, Professor Ingrid Scheffer AO FRS FAA PresAHMS.
Responding to the election, Professor Scheffer said:
‘The importance of health and medical science has never been more in the spotlight. The Academy brings together and celebrates the nation’s best brains in health and medicine. We are delighted to welcome these 28 Fellows who will help us continue to deliver on this purpose and contribute to tackling our nation’s worst health crisis in a generation.
‘The diverse talents and expertise of these Fellows reflects the incredible breadth and depth of Australia’s world class health and medical research. It is this solid base of expertise that has equipped the country to address the pandemic so successfully.’
The Academy’s new Fellows have impacted on the nation’s health in myriad ways. For instance:
- Professor Carolyn Sue AM FAHMS, Executive Director of the Kolling Institute, is a neurologist recognised nationally and internationally for her role in mitochondrial disorders, running the country’s largest tertiary referral clinic and benchmarking mitochondrial disease practice. Her research has led to improved diagnosis and treatment of mitochondrial diseases and identified the prevalence of mitochondrial DNA mutations in the Australian community.
- Distinguished Professor Dianne Nicol FAHMS, Professor of Law at the University of Tasmania is considered a global authority on ethical, social and legal issues in health and medicine, and how these fields relate to precision medicine, genomic data sharing, genome editing and stem cell technology, as well as the commercialisation and patenting of new technologies.
- Professor Timothy Stinear FAHMS, Principal Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne has revolutionised our understanding of important bacterial infections using cutting edge genomic technologies. His research has led to new diagnostic tests, new insights on how infections spread in our hospitals and better understanding of how bacteria are evading our most powerful antibiotics. He is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the neglected tropical disease, Buruli ulcer, and is leading an intervention trial in Australia to stop its spread.
- Professor Lin Fritschi FAHMS, John Curtin Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology at Curtin University is a world expert in the occupational causes of cancer. Her research explores two themes: identifying occupational causes of cancer and improving methods for assessing occupational exposure. Her work has identified associations between many exposures and cancer – including shift work and breast cancer, pesticides and lymphoma, and metals and prostate cancer.
- Professor Hylton Menz FAHMS, NHMRC Senior Research Fellow at La Trobe University is a podiatrist who has advanced our understanding of the prevalence, risk factors and impact of foot disorders, their underlying pathophysiology, opening up new options for non-surgical management using exercise, therapeutic footwear and orthotic interventions.
- Professor Naomi Wray FAA FAHMS, Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Queensland, uses quantitative analyses to understand complex genetic diseases and to predict genetic risk. She particularly focuses on disorders of the brain and her findings have helped to demonstrate the polygenic and shared genetic architecture of psychiatric disorders.
The new Fellows also include, for the first time, a graduate of the Academy’s Mentorship Program: Professor Julie Bernhardt, Deputy Director of the Stroke Division at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, who is a world leader in stroke rehabilitation. The Mentorship Program was set up in 2015 to support emerging leaders in the health and medical sciences – individuals at the point of independence in their research careers. It was the Academy’s first program since our establishment in 2014.
Professor Scheffer was the driving force for establishing the Mentorship Program and said,
‘I’m thrilled that the Mentorship Program has already seen one of its alumni elected as a Fellow. Our mentees are simply astounding and highlight the enormous potential and promise of emerging leaders in health and medical sciences in Australia. They deserve our greatest support along their career path.’
Professor Ingrid Scheffer AO FRS FAA PresAHMS
President, Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences
Information on the Academy’s annual meeting is available from our events page.
Full list of 2020 Fellows
Distinguished Professor David Adams FAHMS, CEO and Executive Director, Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute
Professor Lisa Askie FAHMS, Methods Scientist, World Health Organisation
Professor Melanie Bahlo FAHMS, Theme Leader and Laboratory Head, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
Professor Julie Bernhardt AM FAHMS, Deputy Director, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health
Professor Nicholas Buckley FAHMS, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology, The University of Sydney
Professor Peter Cistulli FAHMS, ResMed Chair in Sleep Medicine, The University of Sydney
Professor Susan Clark FAA FAHMS, Research Director, Genomics and Epigenetics Division, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Professor Ian Constable AO FAHMS, Professor of Ophthalmology, Lions Eye Institute
Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson FAHMS, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Group Leader, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Professor Andrew Forbes FAHMS, Head of Division of Research Methodology and Biostatistics Unit, Monash University
Professor Alistair Forrest FAHMS, Head of Systems Biology and Genomics, The University of Western Australia
Professor Lin Fritschi FAHMS, John Curtin Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology, Curtin University
Professor Mary Galea AM FAHMS, Professorial Fellow, The University of Melbourne
Professor Guy Marks FAHMS, Scientia Professor, UNSW Sydney
Professor Jennifer Martin FAHMS, Chair of Clinical Pharmacology, The University of Newcastle
Professor Kirsten McCaffery FAHMS, NHMRC Principal Research Fellow, The University of Sydney
Professor Hylton Menz FAHMS, NHMRC Senior Research Fellow, La Trobe University
Distinguished Professor Dianne Nicol FAHMS, Professor of Law, University of Tasmania
Professor Anton Peleg FAHMS, Professor and Director of Department of Infectious Diseases, Monash University
Professor Roy Robins-Browne AO FAHMS, Laboratory Head, The Doherty Institute
Professor Andrew Steer FAHMS, Director, Infection and Immunity Theme and Group Leader of Tropical Diseases Research Group, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
Professor Timothy Stinear FAHMS, Principal Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne
Professor Carolyn Sue AM FAHMS, Executive Director, Kolling Institute
Professor Merlin Thomas FAHMS, Program Leader, Department of Diabetes, Monash University
Professor Carola Vinuesa FAA FAHMS, Professor of Immunology and Head, Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease, Australian National University
Professor Steve Vucic FAHMS, Director of Neurophysiology, Westmead Hospital
Professor Andrew Wilks FTSE FAHMS, Executive Chairman, SYNthesis med chem; CEO, SYNthesis Research; CEO, Catalyst Tx, SYNthesis Research
Professor Naomi Wray FAA FAHMS, Professorial Research Fellow, The University of Queensland