Celebrating outstanding health contributions

24 January 2014

Seven University of Sydney professors have made it into Australia's health and medical research Hall of Fame. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) included the researchers in a recently-released High Achievers list, covering medical excellence from the 1880s to today.

The list, which also includes University-affiliated scientists, was put together as a tribute to the Australia's outstanding health and medical research community and their "hard work and ground breaking-discoveries."

Current University of Sydney researchers honoured by the NHMRC include Professor John Chalmers, Professor Judith Black, Professor Ruth Hall, Professor Tania Sorrell, Professor Christine Clarke, Professor Diana Horvath and Professor Sally Redman.

Emeritus Professor John Chalmers (AC FAA FRACP) has anticipated one of the great medical challenges of our age with his work on hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. His early studies helped elucidated the brain mechanisms and neurotransmitters responsible for blood pressure control. And his work has demonstrated the benefits to stroke and Type II diabetes patients of lowering their blood pressure - whether it is considered clinically "high" or not. Professor Chalmers' extensive research has contributed to better health for millions of patients with hypertension, diabetes or cardiovascular disease worldwide. He remains an active lead researcher, mentor and lecturer at the University's George Institute for Global Health, where he holds the title of Senior Director.

Professor Judy Black (AO) was one of the first in the world to tackle asthma research by studying abnormalities in the muscles of the airway at the molecular level. Her ground-breaking work covered airway remodelling in severe asthma, as well as other repiratory diseases including pulmonary fibrosis, mesothelioma and transplantation medicine. A leader in improving treatment for asthma, she was the first Australian on the editorial board of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Professor Black is currently head of the Cell Biology Group at the University's Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, and is committed to mentoring the next generation of high achievers.

Professor Ruth Hall has focussed on antibiotic resistance - one of our most daunting public health challenges. Her large, well-known body of work has had a major impact on our understanding of the spread of antibiotic resistance genes. The work describes integrons - a new mechanism of gene mobility, involving manipulable fragments of DNA known as gene cassettes. It is now accepted that this system plays a key rolled in bringing antibiotic resistance genes into the pathogen gene pool and integrons have since been found in many bacterial genomes, starting with Vibrio Cholera. Professor Hall is based at the School of Molecular Bioscience.

Professor Tania Sorrell is a leader in the fight against infectious disease.
She has longstanding interests in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, especially in immunocompromised hosts, and in the emergence of resistant micro-organisms. Her research into the serious fungal infection, cryptococcosis, has provided new insights into host-microbial interactions and new drug development. Professor Sorrell is the director of the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity - the University's newest multi-disciplinary body, covering medical research, education, communication and advocacy . She is Professor of Clinical Infectious Diseases and Director of the Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at Westmead Millennium Institute.

Professor Christine Clarke's internationally recognised research into the behaviour of progesterone in healthy breasts and in breast cancer aims to unlock the puzzle of how breast cancer develops and progresses. Professor Clarke and her team have a strong commitment to translational research. Together with colleagues from around Australia, she leads a national consortium on new approaches to targeting breast cancers. She also leads the Australian Breast Cancer Tissue Bank that makes breast cancer tissues and clinical information available to researchers from across Australia and internationally. Professor Clarke is based at the Westmead Millennium Institute where she is a NHMRC Principal Research Fellow.

Professor Diana Horvath (AO) has tackled the thorny issues of medical management and administration in her extraordinary over-40-year career. Always an innovator, Professor Horvath set up pioneering community health services in NSW. She broke through many glass ceilings in her career. She was the first to work as administrator of a Clinical Division within King George V Hospital, later rising to General Superintendent of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital; the first female chair of the NHMRC; and the first female CEO of a state Health Service Area - Eastern Sydney and later Sydney South West, a position she held for 14 years. She set up the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care in 2006 and led it for two years. In 1993 the Australian Hospital Association awarded Professor Horvath its highest honour, the Sax Medal, for her innovation in health care management and research. Professor Horvath sits on the board of the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse - Australia's first truly integrated and patient-focussed cancer centre of excellence. She is an Adjunct Professor in Sydney Medical School.

A behavioural scientist by training, Professor Sally Redman was the inaugural director of the NHMRC National Breast Cancer Centre. Her focus was to ensure that all women in Australia got the best available care by ensuring that health professionals knew of the best evidence and integrated it into their practice. Now CEO of the Sax Institute, Professor Redman works to increase the impact of public health and health services research on policy and practice. She is also a public health researcher with an interest in evaluating health programs. Professor Redman received the Centenary Medal in 2003 for service to the health and welfare of Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer. She is an Honorary Professor at the University School of Public Health.

Seven university-affiliated scientists have also been included on the NHMRC High Achievers timeline. They include distinguished biologist Sir Gustav Nossal; world-renowned asthma and respiratory medicine specialist Professor Ann Woolcock; prominent medical journalist Dr Norman Swan; cardiovascular physiologist Professor Paul Korner; immunologist Emeritus Professor Jacques Miller; "bionic ear" pioneer Professor Graeme Clark and youth mental health campaigner and 2010 Australian of the year Professor Patrick McGorry.

High Achievers in Australian Health and Medical Research was published on the NHMRC website here.

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