Welcome from the Dean

Great expectations, built on formidable achievements of the past

Much has been happening within the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences since our last edition of Chiron, with plenty to celebrate across our academic, research and alumni communities.

We welcomed 2411 graduates into our community at the end of 2017, including 342 new medical graduates. Following in the footsteps of those who have gone before, these new medical graduates are already making their way in their careers, many as interns at hospitals across Melbourne and Victoria, with others pursuing their professional or other training interstate or internationally.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to connect with many alumni of the Faculty in the past 18 months not only in Melbourne but across the globe, and particularly during visits to North America and the UK. I am inspired by the ambitious careers our graduates are pursuing and encouraged by the many strong connections that exist between alumni of our Faculty here and throughout the world.

Closer to home, our academics, many also alumni, have been honoured at the highest state, national and international echelons. Laureate Professor Eric Reynolds AO (BSc (Hons) 1972, PhD 1978) was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation in recognition of his pioneering dental research, while epilepsy expert Professor Samuel Berkovic AC (BMedSci 1974, MBBS 1977, MD 1984) was named as an international member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), one of medicine’s highest honours.

Laureate Professor Alan Lopez AC was named as the recipient of one of the world’s most prestigious medical research prizes, the John Dirks Canada Global Health Award from the Gairdner Foundation. Professor Lopez and his long-time research collaborator Professor Christopher Murray (BDSc 1968, MDSc 1972, PhD 2013) were recognised for their landmark Global Burden of Disease Study.

In late 2017, Dr Skye Kinder (MD 2016) was named Victoria’s Junior Doctor of the Year.

Early career scientists based at the University of Melbourne and our partner institutes in the Melbourne Biomedical Network have also celebrated major honours. Associate Professor Kathryn Holt (MEpid 2011), Dr Laura Mackay, Professor Mark Dawson (BMedSci 1998, MBBS 1999), Dr Wai-Hong Tham and Dr Seth Masters (BSc (Hons) 2000, DipArts (Phil) 2001, PhD 2006) were recipients of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Research Scholar, which saw them each awarded more than US$650,000 over five years to pursue new research directions that bring innovation to priority global health problems.

And, in March this year, Dr Kerryn Moore (BSc 2011, MSc (Epid) 2013, PhD 2018), Dr Hui-Fern Koay (BBiomed (Hons) 2011, PhD 2017), Dr Tan Nguyen (PhD 2017), Dr Benjamin Teh (MBBS (Hons) 2003, PhD 2017) and Dr Gabrielle Haeusler were recognised for excellence in research improving patient care at the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research.

Our academics also continue to lead a wide range of learning and teaching innovations, including development of a virtual reality heart, integration of physical performance into the teaching of biomedicine, and varied initiatives to enhance diversity awareness, cultural competence, student wellbeing, communication for health, inclusive teaching, professionalism and innovations in assessment and feedback. Many of our teaching staff have been recognised in Faculty and University-wide awards, while Dr Jason Ivanusic and Ms Shawana Andrews (BSW 1999) were 2017 recipients of the federal government’s Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning.

But perhaps the most exciting win goes to Associate Professor Tilman Ruff AM, founding chairman of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) – a non-government coalition that was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its work to end the threat of nuclear arms to humanity.

Perhaps not on the same scale, but still of some excitement for us, was the news that our Faculty has reached 9th place on the Times Higher Education 2018 rankings for clinical, pre-clinical and health disciplines. This is the first time that an Australian university – in fact, any university outside the US and Europe – has ranked in the top 10 since Times Higher Education introduced the clinical, pre-clinical and health category in 2010.

Making the top 10 puts us in venerable company – we share it with Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Imperial College London, Stanford, Johns Hopkins among others. Like all these universities, we did not achieve this result on our own – the ranking also reflects the exceptional input of our partner medical research institutes.

There are some momentous changes at the University-wide level too. You might have heard that Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis AC – who has led the University for 13 years – will be leaving us this year. His successor, Professor Duncan Maskell, currently Cambridge University’s Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor, will be joining us in October. Professor Maskell is a researcher in the field of infectious diseases and has led an active entrepreneurial career, founding several successful start-up companies. We are very much looking forward to Professor Maskell joining us while remaining in awe of all that Professor Davis achieved during his tenure, including leading a major reshaping of the way the University teaches through the design and introduction of the world-class Melbourne Model and by overseeing significant campus improvements through our largest ever building program.

In fact, Professor Davis’s legacy is still being built around us. There is a new student precinct being built on Swanston Street and a new innovation precinct – Carlton Connect – going up on the former site of the Royal Women’s Hospital. Construction has also begun on the new Parkville Station as part of the Metro Tunnel, which means that Grattan Street from Royal Parade to University Square will be closed for the next five years. But it will be worth the wait – making it easier for students to get to the University, staff to get to work and patients to get to the nearby hospitals.

Excitingly, preliminary plans are underway for buildings that will greatly benefit the Faculty, including a new home where the Melbourne Medical School building currently stands, finally bringing our six schools together. It is fitting that we consider these plans in this the 50th year of the iconic triradiate building, which has been the educational home of thousands of our Faculty’s students and workplace for many hundreds of staff and volunteer educators over the past five decades – and, no doubt, witness to many life-altering experiences. A new biomedical innovation hub located on Elizabeth Street is also on the agenda. These buildings would bring different people and disciplines together – allowing cross-fertilisation, ideas and innovation to flourish. I hope to be able to report back in the next edition of Chiron with further details of these developments.

There is much, much more happening at the Faculty. We launched a new Strategic Plan last year and are now busy ensuring that we achieve the 50 initiatives we have identified that will help us cement our position as Australia’s leading health and biomedical faculty. To learn more about these initiatives, please visit the Faculty’s website at mdhs.unimelb.edu.au/beyond2018

I look forward to connecting with many of you at this year's inaugural Reunion Weekend for the Melbourne Medical School on 23 and 24 November.

Please stay in touch throughout the year by contacting the MDHS Alumni Team at mdhs-alumni@unimelb.edu.au

As always we welcome and encourage your feedback.

With warm regards,

Professor Shitij Kapur
Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences
Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Health)