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Influential alumnus makes impact on medical community

28 October 2019
The University of Sydney School of Medicine alumnus and philanthropist, Dr Barry Catchlove AM, led an extraordinary career in healthcare management. He has also made a significant contribution at the University, generously supporting young researchers.

Dr Barry Catchlove AM graduated from Sydney Medical School in 1966. When he started the program at the age of 16, his cohort of 800 was the largest of its size since the influx of students following the Second World War. At the time, the University of Sydney was the only medical school in New South Wales.

After completing his medical studies and training as a physician at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Dr Catchlove pursued an impressive career in healthcare management spanning five decades. He took on a number of varied roles in operations and management, leading reform in public and private hospitals across Australia.

Dr Catchlove’s journey in the medical community came full circle in the ’90s when he was approached by Sydney Medical School to lead another kind of reform – to continue to engage alumni through a variety of initiatives, initially as President of the Medical Alumni Association and then President of the University’s Alumni Council. This led to six years representing alumni on the Senate of the University.

Dr Catchlove and Dr Melkam, inaugural Nicholas Catchlove fellowship recipient, in the labs at the Charles Perkins Centre.

Dr Catchlove and Dr Melkam, inaugural Nicholas Catchlove fellowship recipient, in the labs at the Charles Perkins Centre.

“When I was a student, I was involved with a wide range of projects like the yearbook and the Lambie-Dew Oration, so I had a big group of contacts,” explains Dr Catchlove.

He felt that volunteering for the University was a good way to give back to the community.

“I’d been approached by a lot of fundraising institutes over the years and everyone wanted money. I came back to the University so I could contribute by doing the helping bit first until I could afford to start donating.”

During his tenure as a volunteer with the Medical Alumni Association and the Alumni Council, Dr Catchlove focused on reconnecting with alumni through events and reunions to build a sense of community. When the time was right, he also became philanthropically involved, initially in a small way, supporting students within the faculty.

“When I had surplus income, I decided that I really liked the work that the Charles Perkins Centre did – I liked the model and the multidisciplinary nature of the work there.”

Since 2016, Dr Catchlove has donated to the Charles Perkins Centre in support of early career researchers investigating diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity through the Nicholas Catchlove Early Career Researcher Development Fund, honouring the memory of his late son, Nick.

“There are usually adequate funds available to support PhD students and established researchers, however postdoctorate students are often competing with thousands of others for a grant that they desperately need to get off the ground,” he says.

By giving something now while you’re alive, you can see where the money goes and you can get involved in the relevant societies and activities available, and that’s rewarding.
Dr Barry Catchlove AM

As part of the fund, Dr Catchlove supports Dr Melkam Kebede – the inaugural and current holder of the Nicholas Catchlove fellowship, valued at $20,000 per annum.

Dr Kebede’s research investigates the prevention and treatment of the progression of type 2 diabetes, through developing our understanding of the role of pancreatic beta cells.

Speaking about her work, Dr Kebede says, “The diabetic patients I have met through my community work inspire me. Their questions and encouragements are my constant source of inspiration to continue waging war on diabetes. They remind me of the real-world impact of what we do here.”

Dr Catchlove has also established a biennial lecture. The Nicholas Catchlove Lecture educates and informs the wider community about global health issues, developments and discoveries. Open to the public, the event highlights a guest lecturer who is an eminent Australian or overseas expert in their field.

An enduring member of the community, Dr Catchlove has now expanded these activities to a bequest. He hopes his donations will continue to help young scientists advance their understanding of pressing health concerns so that as a community we can create inroads into some of the public health issues faced in Australia and worldwide.