Emeritus Professor Henry G Burger AO

Citation for the Award of Doctor of Medical Science (honoris causa)

When Henry Burger first graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1956, having been a student at St Vincent’s Hospital, he obtained first class honours and first place in Medicine, Surgery and Obstetrics and Gynaecology and he took out eleven of the twelve prizes on offer to his graduating MBBS year. After postgraduate training at the Middlesex Hospital in London and an international postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in the USA, he returned to Australia as Associate Director of the newly established Prince Henry's Hospital Medical Research Centre. He played a key leadership role in the development of the Centre and served as Director from 1969, continuing in the role as the Centre became an Institute in 1990, until 1998. He remained as unit head and Director of Endocrinology at Monash Medical Centre until his retirement in 1998. He continues as Director Emeritus of the Institute’s more recent incarnation, since merging with the Monash Institute of Medical Research, the Hudson Institute.

In addition to directing one of the country’s leading research institutes and maintaining his own clinical practice, Henry Burger made highly significant personal contributions to the advancement of knowledge and practice in endocrinology. His interests and major contributions have been in the areas of the physiology of the menopause and management of the menopause transition, male infertility, anovulatory infertility, hirsutism, and female sexual dysfunction. He was co-leader of the team which first successfully isolated the gonadal hormone, inhibin, establishing the main aspects of its physiology and clinical application – particularly in the area of ovarian cancer diagnosis and follow up. He has published over 600 peer reviewed papers, contributed to the editorial boards of 13 scientific journals and to the publication, as author or editor, of 16 books.

Henry Burger has distinguished himself through his outstanding professional leadership: as President of the Australasian Menopause Society, the International Menopause Society and the Endocrine Society of Australia. His extensive involvement with the World Health Organization’s Human Reproduction Programme, in particular when Prince Henry’s Institute was a WHO Collaborating Centre for Research in Human Reproduction, enabled important advances in the understanding of fertility to underpin international recommendations for family planning and reproductive health.

In 1971, Australia’s first menopause clinic, established at Prince Henry’s Hospital by Henry Burger and the late Dr Jean Hailes AM, filled a number of hitherto unmet clinical needs for menopausal women, raised the profile of midlife changes and broke the uncomfortable silence that suppressed discussion of menopausal symptoms in society. Four years after Jean Hailes death, Henry Burger was a founding board member of the Jean Hailes Foundation, and he continues his association with the organisation (now Jean Hailes for Women’s Health) as its patron.

The great value of Henry Burger’s contributions to medical science has been well acknowledged by his peers and by the Australian community. Both Monash University and the University of Liege have awarded him honorary doctorates and he has been made an honorary fellow (ad eundem) of both the Royal and Royal Australian Colleges of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and an honorary life member of both the Endocrine and the Fertility Societies of Australia. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science and an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia. He was a recipient of the Dale Medal, awarded by the Society of Endocrinology, UK and of the Distinguished Physician Award of the US Endocrine Society. He also received a Commonwealth Centenary Medal. An oration, hosted by the Asia-Pacific Menopause Federation, and a prize, awarded by the International Menopause Society, have been named in his honour.

In honour of his distinguished scientific contributions, in particular to the advancement of knowledge in the area of reproductive endocrinology, his leadership of his specialty and his prominence in the development and support of clinical initiatives for the health and wellbeing of patients, Professor Henry Burger is awarded the Doctor of Medical Science honoris causa.