Message from the Head of School

A few weeks ago, I had great pleasure in attending the inaugural Melbourne Medical School Research Symposium organised by Jane Gunn, David Lane and the School’s Research Committee.  At this event, we celebrated the research funding successes of our staff and then heard from five Melbourne Medical School researchers about their research lives.  These talks were presented in the format of MOTH events – no PowerPoint slides were permitted and talks were delivered in a personal storytelling style.  Mandy Nikpour, Ingrid Schaffer, Paul Johnson, Grant McArthur and Alex Thompson all embraced this style and fully engaged the audience in the high and lows of research life.  I would like to thank our presenters and congratulate them on such engaging talks which embraced a format outside of their comfort zone.  The Research Symposium will be an annual event and I suspect this style of presentation will be a part of our approach for 2018.

It was very pleasing to see that the University of Melbourne was ranked number nine in the world for clinical, preclinical and health in the World University Rankings for 2018.  This is an extraordinary result and clearly the Melbourne Medical School can justifiably take some of the credit for this outcome.  Research is a cornerstone of our mission and as a school we are committed to supporting our researchers in their endeavours.  With the upcoming NH&MRC project grant round being the last in the current format we are particularly interested in supporting our research staff in submitting the best applications.  In recent weeks I have undertaken research roadshows encouraging our staff to engage in the grant support services the School, Faculty and University offer.  These roadshows have also provided staff with an opportunity to hear from successful researchers about their grant writing tips.  Once this last round in the current format is complete the School will be engaged in discussions within our Departments about optimal approaches to the new NH&MRC grant arrangements for 2019.

I was delighted to recently meet with Heather St John who has taken on the University role of supporting our approach to the Medical Research Future Fund.  Heather comes with broad university and commercial experience and will be of great assistance in our MRFF strategy.  Over the next few months Heather will make her way around the School to discuss MRFF opportunities.

As you would have heard, our Deputy Head of School Jane Gunn has accepted the role of Deputy Dean of the Faculty after Glenn Bowes stood down from this role a few months ago.  I am sure you will all join with me in congratulating Jane on this role which she we will complete with her customary thoughtful and engaging style.  As a result of this appointment Jane will stand down as the Head of the Department of General Practice after nearly 10 years and we will be recruiting a new Head in 2018.  In the meantime, the Deputy Head of Department, Associate Professor Lena Sanci has agreed to be the interim Head until the new appointee commences.

As we celebrate the successes of one of our women leaders we should also reflect on the fact that further advances in gender equity within our academic ranks still need to be made.  The University is committed to addressing this inequity through the Athena Swan process but it behoves us all to consider gender balance in all we do.  I am most grateful to Professor Martha Hickey for sending me a recent Editorial in the Lancet entitled “Women in science, medicine, and global health: call for papers” which I commend to you.

I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the success of a number of our colleagues who were promoted in 2017.  I congratulate all staff who received this important recognition of their contribution to the School.

I am pleased to confirm that the MMS will welcome a new department, the Department of Clinical Pathology, on the first of January 2018.  I have asked Sean Grimmond to be the interim Head of Department while we complete a search for a permanent Head in 2018.  The Department will be responsible for graduate teaching particularly into the MD and will further develop a cancer aligned research program utilising the wonderful facilities of the VCCC building.  I am sure you will all join with me in welcoming the newest members of the MMS team.

As the year draws towards a close it is timely to thank you all for your extraordinary efforts in 2017.  The MMS has clearly achieved strong outcomes in accordance with its mission and is making a positive difference in the health of our community.  I wish you all well for the upcoming holidays and hope you will all have a relaxing and restful break.