University of Melbourne Awards announced

This year’s University of Melbourne Awards have been announced, with bronze plaques installed along Professors Walk on the Parkville campus to recognise awardees.

University of Melbourne awards

Chancellor Elizabeth Alexander, Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis and Provost Margaret Sheil
with award recipients Uncle Kevin Coombs, John McKenzie, Ruth Fincher and Jurij Semkiw.

The awards recognise those individuals who have made an outstanding and enduring contribution to the university and its scholarly community. This includes academic and professional staff members who, through their professional work, teaching, research, scholarship, or institutional leadership, have contributed to the university’s advancement as a public education institution and contributed to the intellectual and public life of the broader community.

A number of the award recipients have strong ties to the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, including Australia’s first Indigenous Paralympian Wotjobaluk Elder Kevin Coombs, paediatrician Dame Kate Cambell (1899–1986) and Professor of Dental Prosthetic Henry Atkinson (1912–2016).

Uncle Kevin Coombs OAM
Wotjobaluk Elder Uncle Kevin Coombs OAM was recognised for his major contributions to the University of Melbourne, Australian sport, Aboriginal health and the wellbeing of Indigenous communities. Left with paraplegia at the age of twelve following a shooting accident, Uncle Kevin spent the next 10 years of his life living at the Austin Hospital. He was one of the first patients of the hospital’s Spinal Injuries Unit, where sport was integral to the rehabilitation program. In 1960, Uncle Kevin was selected to represent Australia in wheelchair basketball at the first Paralympic Games, and he soon became a founding member of Wheelchair Sports Victoria (now Disability Sport and Recreation).

Uncle Kevin has been highly successful in promoting Aboriginal health, including through the foundation of the Koorie Health Unit within the Victorian Department of Health. For more than 50 years, Uncle Kevin has maintained a close relationship with the University. He has taught generations of health professionals to think differently about Aboriginal health, and his mentorship of Indigenous health leaders and contributions to the University’s health and medical teaching and research programs have been foundational to the evolution of its relationships with Indigenous communities. Uncle Kevin received a medal of the Order of Australia in 1983 in recognition of service to sport for the disabled and to Aboriginal welfare.

Dame Kate Campbell DBE
Dame Kate Isabel Campbell DBE (1899–1986) made an important and enduring contribution to the University of Melbourne through her pioneering and inspiring research, practice and teaching in neonatal medicine. Early in her career, Kate Campbell worked closely at the (Royal) Women’s Hospital with medical practitioner Vera Scantlebury Brown, who was then pioneering aspects of child welfare in Australia. Together, they later published A Guide to the Care of the Young Child (1947), the standard textbook for infant welfare sisters over seven editions to 1972. She took up a position teaching neonatal paediatrics at the University of Melbourne in 1929 – the first such appointment in Australia – where she trained doctors in newborn medicine until 1965. Kate Campbell was also Honorary Paediatrician at both the Queen Victoria Hospital from 1926 to 1965 and Women’s Hospital from 1944 to 1960.

A pioneer of neonatal intensive care, Kate Campbell led a range of significant advances in newborn medicine, including on infection control, neonatal feeding, jaundice in the premature infant, electrolyte and fluid intolerance in the newborn, as well as the effects of trauma in delivery. Her most important research contribution was establishing that excess therapeutic oxygen lay behind acquired retrolental fibroplasia—a condition that could lead to blindness among premature babies. For this work, she was joint recipient, with Norman Gregg, of the inaugural Britannica-Australia Award for Medicine in 1964. An Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and first woman President of the Australian Paediatric Association, Campbell was awarded an OBE in 1954, Honorary Doctorate of Laws from this University in 1966 and a DBE in 1971.

Professor Henry Atkinson MBE
Educated in the United Kingdom, and having served as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for the British Army in Egypt, North Africa and Italy during World War II, Henry Atkinson MBE (1912–2016) arrived in Australia in 1953 to take up the Chair in Dental Prosthetics at the University of Melbourne. As Professor of Dental Prosthetics from 1953 to 1977 and Dean of the Faculty of Dental Science from
1968 to 1970, Henry Atkinson had a profound influence on the development of a culture of world-class research and teaching excellence in Dentistry at the University. His contributions also extended across the institution: he worked in the Department of Biochemistry and Department of Physiology, was appointed Lecturer in Histology and Embryology and served on many University-wide boards and committees.

From his retirement in 1978 until 2016, Henry Atkinson continued to make a significant contribution as Honorary Curator of the Dental Museum and Honorary Historian of the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne. In these roles, he dedicated himself to illustrating and sharing the rich history of dentistry and significant changes in dental practice in Australia. In 2006, the Dental Museum was renamed the Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum in recognition of his years of service. For over six decades, Henry Atkinson was a mentor to generations of Australian dental graduates and academics.

The full list of 2016 recipients:

  • Henry Atkinson (1912–2016)
  • Dame Kate Campbell (1899–1986)
  • Uncle Kevin Coombs (1941–)
  • Ernest Cropley (1914–1997)
  • Diana (Ding) Dyason (1919–1989)
  • Ruth Fincher (1951–)
  • John McKenzie (1947–)
  • Fay Marles (1926–)
  • John Poynter (1929–)
  • Jurij Semkiw (1929–)
  • Donald Thomson (1901–1970)
  • Jessie Webb (1880–1944)