Penny, Ronald

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Ronald Penny established the first Clinical Immunology Unit in NSW in 1967, and made the first diagnosis of AIDS in Australia in 1982.

Ronald graduated with honours from the University of Sydney in 1960, after which he undertook further studies in haematology, oncology and immunology in the United Kingdom and the United States. On his return in 1967, he set up the first Clinical Immunology Unit in New South Wales at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. In 1969, this unit was transferred to St Vincent’s Hospital, initially retaining a research focus in leukaemia, myeloma, paraproteinemia and lymphoma.

In 1973 Ronald became Professor of Clinical Immunology at the University of NSW and in 1979, receiving the first Doctorate of Science awarded to a Member of a clinical Department by the University. According to Ronald:

The first case of AIDS was diagnosed by our group in 1982, a year after the overseas description. This opened both a huge area in terms of clinical, diagnostic, teaching and research issues to address a completely new disease, and a major role for public education and new clinical service models which dramatically depended not only on hospital but [on] community and non-government organisation assistance. A major contribution, apart from research into the disease, was our group’s identification of HIV primary infection. In addition, the major participatory role both in Commonwealth and State Governments and with non-government organisations changing population behaviour in terms of condom usage and powerful control of transmission through injecting drug use, through to the introduction of expanded Methadone programs and needle and syringe exchange programs. This led ultimately to other appointments including the NSW Prison Health Service,…participation in the Drug Summit, and currently, a role in the refashioning of health services in the community to promote community based health care on the one hand, and the expansion of the NSW Health and Aged Care Chronic Disease program on the other.

The Centre for Immunology was established by the University of New South Wales under Ronald’s Directorship in 1983. Five years later, he was awarded a Personal Chair in Clinical Immunology in 1988. In 1993, Ronald was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Australia for “service to medical research and education, particularly in the field of clinical immunology”.

Throughout his long career as one of Australia’s leading immunologists, he has served as Honorary Consultant at many Sydney hospitals, continues as a Member of the Editorial Boards of prestigious international journals, as well as serving on Government and non-Government Committees. Between November 2001 and March 2002 he undertook a review of the New South Wales Red Cross Blood Service in association with KPMG.

Ronald is a Director of Cryosite Pty Ltd and Peptech Ltd, Health Consultant for Accor Asia Pacific, the Medical Director of Good Health Solutions, and a Member of the Scientific and Medical Advisory Board of Probiomics.

He is currently Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of NSW, Senior Clinical Advisor for NSW Health, Chairman of the Corrections Health Services Board. He serves as Co-Chair of the NSW State Government’s Chronic and Complex Care Implementation Group, and is a Member of the NSW Expert Advisory Group on Drugs, the Ministerial Advisory Council on Medical and Health Research, and NSW General Practice Council.[1]

Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Penny, Ronald. Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive, University of Sydney.

An alternate version appears in: Mellor, L. 150 Years, 150 Firsts: The People of the Faculty of Medicine (2006) Sydney, Sydney University Press.