University of Sydney launches INSPIRED Campaign

7 May 2013

Researchers at the Sydney Burns Foundation
Researchers at the Sydney Burns Foundation

On Saturday, the University of Sydney announced that it is at the halfway mark of the biggest ever fundraising drive of its kind in Australian higher education.

The event, which was MC'd by Faculty of Arts alumnus Adam Spencer, was held in the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay, overlooking the Opera House. The black tie dinner, featuring sponsored catering and wine and over 40 volunteers, brought together alumni, friends and donors as well as Faculty Deans, students, academics, and the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Dr Michael Spence, who were all treated to a first-hand look at the diverse and inspiring expertise from across the faculties.

With over 30 speakers - all of which were current University of Sydney academics or students - rotating around the dining tables, guests had the opportunity to hear from and talk to experts in a variety of fields, ranging from Australian animal genomes to astrophysics, and from linguistics to Youth Policy and many more.

A multimedia dance performance featuring one of our very talented undergraduate students illustrated examples of how the University of Sydney is changing the world in a variety of ways, and a video featuring John Hooke provided a thought-provoking view of the University through the eyes of an alumnus.

INSPIRED - The campaign to support the University of Sydney, began in 2008, with the aim to raise $600 million from more than 40,000 supporters by 2017. With 28,000 donors so far having raised over $300 million, the funds are being used to support current and future students, academics, research projects, and facilities, and to provide more opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in higher education.

Already, the funds collected over the past four years have contributed to new research centres such as the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, the Australian Stuttering Research Centre and the Australian Centre for Field Robotics. Research into Australian prehistory, sustainable power, healthcare in Vietnam, and new, less invasive treatments for burn victims has also been facilitated by donations gifted to the University throughout the campaign.

The Sydney Burns Foundation at the Sydney Medical School is one of a number of research organisations that is already benefitting from the increased support, by launching its new Living Skin Project. To date, the most common treatment for burn wounds has been skin grafting, which is an invasive surgical procedure that transplants healthy skin from elsewhere on the patient's body to the wound bed. Significant scarring, loss of integrity and function, and the potential for ongoing pain are common side-effects of this treatment, but it's hoped thatthe Living Skin Project will develop a fully functioning laboratory-cultured, three-dimensional skin that can be used in place of a skin graft.

"The Living Skin project has the potential to change lives," says Associate Professor Haertsch, one of the leading researchers of the project. "We are leading the way in developing an affordable and safe alternative to the classic skin grafting procedure, to make the pain of surviving a burns injury worth it."

The Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, based at the Sydney Medical School, was established earlier this year through a donation from businessman Greg Poche - one of the largest philanthropic gifts ever presented to the University of Sydney by a living individual.

The primary aim of the Poche Centre is to help eliminate disparities in Indigenous health and social justice outcomes through sponsoring new research projects; contributing to public outreach; forming strong relationships with Aboriginal Medical Services, health providers and communities; and delivering a range of free clinical services to remote towns including cardiology, occupational therapy, dentistry and speech pathology.

One of the new programs supported by the Poche Centre is the Bourke Dental Health Program, based in northwest New South Wales and led by Dr Steven Naoum. Every month Dr Naoum and two students from the University of Sydney travel to the small town of Bourke to hold free dental clinics for the local community, and over two days perform around 100 procedures for 20-30 patients. As many as 70 percent of children in low socioeconomic or rural areas across Australia have decayed or missing teeth, or fillings in their permanent teeth, so it's hoped that this program will play a significant role in reversing this trend.

"Dentistry is not just about routine check-ups in the Eastern suburbs. It's helping those who really need it, and educating the next generation of practitioners. Our students need that real-world exposure, so they are informed about the choices they can make after they graduate," says Dr Naoum.