Alumni Awards Presentation 2012
Alumni Award For Community Achievement
Archie Kalokerinos MBBS 1951
Dr Kalokerinos receives the Alumni Award for Community Achievement posthumously for his lifelong commitment to improving the health of Aboriginal children and rural Australia.
In the opening pages of his book, Every Second Child (1974), Kalokerinos states: “For years I worked among them (Aborigines) with care but without knowledge. Rows upon rows of tiny graves in the Aboriginal cemetery at Collarenebri bear silent testimony to the inefficiency of my early efforts.
Then, in December 1967, I discovered the truth. The death rate fell and has since remained at a figure that rivals the lowest in the Western World.”
The ‘truth’ for Kalokerinos was the controversial idea that daily vitamin C supplements could reduce disease and improve health.
Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling, threw his weight behind Kalokerinos’s theory and contributed a foreword to the book, in which he wrote:
“This book presents the engrossing account of the attack, in large part ultimately successful, made by Dr Archie Kalokerinos on the problem of the very high death rate of Aboriginal children.
The problem of obtaining a suitable amount of vitamin C is, of course, a far more serious one for the Australian Aborigines than for other people. I believe that the conclusion reached by Dr Kalokerinos that the high infant mortality and generally high incidence of disease among the Aboriginal infants is to be attributed in considerable part to a low body content of vitamin C is correct.”
Kalokerinos took up the theme again in his 1993 self-published book Vitamin C. Nature’s Healing Missile and he was the subject of the documentary film God Knows Why But It Works, directed by Phil Noyce and shown at the 1976 Sydney Film Festival.
From 1965–67, Kalokerinos took an unusual break from medicine to become an opal miner at Coober Pedy. This experience prompted him to write two books on the topic, In Search of Opal (1967) and Australian Precious Opal (1971).
He retired from full-time practice in 1992 and was named Greek Australian of the Century in 2000.
Sadly, he passed away on March 1 this year before learning that his nomination for this award had been successful.
Alumni Award for International Achievement
William Maina MIPH 2007
Dr Maina receives the Alumni Award for International Achievement for his work in Non-Communicable Diseases in Nairobi.
Since completing his Masters in International Public Health at the University of Sydney, Dr Maina returned to Kenya where he heads the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) division of the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation in Nairobi.
Under his direction, NCD, once a neglected area of the Ministry of Health, has become a vibrant unit with dedicated funding and work plans to achieve the many initiatives he has introduced. Maina and his colleagues are currently running projects worth over two million euros.
Maina’s main achievements have been in the areas of tobacco control, diabetes, cancer and road safety.
He spearheaded tobacco control legislation, and as a result, smoking in public places is banned and cigarette packets have to carry health warnings. Today, Kenya has one of the most comprehensive tobacco control laws in the continent and complies with the World Health Organization requirements.
Maina’s National Diabetes Control Program has seen the development of a national diabetes strategy, national clinical guidelines for the management of diabetes and a diabetes’ educators manual. His work has been recognised by the World Diabetes Foundation and the International Diabetes Federation. He also founded the Kenya Diabetes Summit.
His road safety initiative, a three year project funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, introduced the use of speed video cameras and is establishing the first public emergency rescue service in the country with fully-equipped ambulances to respond to traffic accidents.
In the past four years, Maina has helped build partnerships and collaborations with local and international partners to support NCD in Kenya. One of these collaborations involves the University of Sydney and the University of Nairobi.
In 2011 he was awarded the Presidential Order of Grand Warrior of Kenya for his exemplary contribution to public health.
Alumni Award For Professional Achievement
Christina Steffen MBBS 1982
Christina Steffen receives the Alumni Award for Professional Achievement for her contributions to vascular surgery in particular for the establishment of the outreach vascular clinic in tropical North Queensland.
Dr Steffen is a vascular and general surgeon at the Cairns Base Hospital.
She was the driver of a multi-disciplinary outreach program to provide care to isolated communities in tropical North Queensland, particularly Indigenous communities, that would otherwise be denied such good coordinated care for vascular problems.
The program has resulted in a significant reduction in the incidence of major limb amputation.
The logistics for patients to travel to Cairns for treatment are often insurmountable. A service provided at home is extremely valuable, and the scope of surgical procedures that can be conducted in rural and remote areas is extensive, ranging from gall-bladder surgery to minor foot surgery.
Without the outreach service, these patients would swell the surgical waiting list of the overstretched hub hospital and patients would experience lengthy delays. The outreach service allows patients to remain in their communities.
In 1997, Steffen was instrumental in founding a high risk foot service to address diabetic foot disease which is a major problem for Tropical North Queensland. It is particularly prevalent in Indigenous groups with up to 50 per cent of Torres Strait Islanders over 35 suffering from the disease.
The service is an excellent model of evidence-based management of this chronic disease and Steffen has presented and published widely on the topic.
She is also recognised as a local expert on the diagnosis and treatment of Buruli ulcer, a WHO notifiable disease which is found in the rainforested Daintree River area, and is a major public health problem in West Africa