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Pathology specimens in jars and on display on shelves at the centre
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Ainsworth donation preserves medical pathology collection

1 November 2016
Collection to be renamed after benefactor

The University’s historic collection of medical pathology specimens – used to teach medical students about crucial aspects of human diseases for generations – will be preserved in perpetuity thanks to a $2 million donation from businessman Len Ainsworth. 

Housed in the Charles Perkins Centre, the University’s Interactive Centre for Human Diseases will be renamed the Ainsworth Interactive Collection of Medical Pathology following the donation. Among the University’s 1,500-plus collection of tissues highlighting various stages of disease are rare pieces including a heart dating back to 1895 and a lung infected with the deadly “Spanish flu”. The collection is also home to medical instruments and equipment used since the Sydney Medical School began teaching in 1883, including microscopes, surgical equipment and other amazing artefacts. They include an original 1888 flask of broth made and sealed by Louis Pasteur, to be used in a series of experiments to help rid NSW of rabbits.

Created in 1889 to teach the University’s medical students, the collection is now used by students, educators and researchers from within and outside the university. It remains an invaluable teaching resource for medical, dental, science, paramedical, nursing and high school biology and has inspired artists’ sculpture and paintings.

“Being able to see firsthand the impacts of diseases on human organs and tissues is important for medical students trying to understand the pathological processes that underlie them and for researchers searching for better treatments for them,” said Acting Dean of Sydney Medical School Professor Arthur Conigrave. 

an original 1888 flask of broth, sitting in a purple velvet-lined box, made and sealed by Louis Pasteur as part of a series of experiments to rid NSW of rabbits.

An original 1888 flask of broth made by Louis Pasteur, part of a series of experiments to rid NSW of rabbits. 

“Similarly, for a paramedic to pick up a heart reinforces the reality of what they’re working with on a day-to-day basis. Len Ainsworth’s generosity will ensure theory and practice are integrated at all levels of medical learning for generations to come.”

Len Ainsworth says he was alerted to the need for funds to preserve this vital collection by Dr Edward “Ted” Kremer OAM.

“As a former medical student, and following further discussion, I said to Ted it would be my pleasure to help provide enduring resources to enable the collection to be maintained long term.

I have a keen interest in medical research in quite a number of areas and understand and agree with the importance of the pathology collection and its long-term activities.”

The collection will also be maintained with the help of the Hunt Endowment, established by a generous donation from John Hunt and his son Bradley. 

Jocelyn Prasad

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