Professor John Funder AO

Citation for the Award of Doctor of Medical Science (Honoris Causa)

John Funder’s long and active career in research, its governance and promotion has played a critical role in establishing the international biomedical research reputation of Melbourne and Australia.

His education at the University of Melbourne saw him studying arts (BA 1964) and medicine (MBBS 1965), then move into research (PhD & MD 1971) investigating inter alia the role of aldosterone and mineralocorticoid receptors in hypertension and heart failure. The past two decades have seen a major extension of our understanding of the pathophysiology of aldosterone and the complexities of mineralocorticoid receptor signaling. His ground-breaking work in this area has been fundamental to the creation of an important link between endocrinology and cardiology. His work is internationally acknowledged as providing the lead to hitherto unexpected roles for mineralocorticoid receptors in terms both of physiology and pathophysiology.

Throughout his career he has received a steady stream of awards and honours amongst which are included the Membre de l’Ordre  Des Palmes Academiques of the French Government (1980), the Eric Susman Prize of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (1984), the Glaxo Medal (1987), the Sidney H Ingbar Distinguished Service Award (2002) and the Robert H Williams Award for Distinguished Leadership (2013) of The Endocrine Society (USA), and the Novartis Prize for Hypertension from the Council for High Blood Pressure Research (2008).

A phenomenal publication record of 578 publications, which have received over 20,500 citations, including his 2008 Endocrine Practice Guidelines for Primary Aldosteronism (one of his highly cited papers), confirms John Funder’s authority in his field. He has given over 200 invited lectures internationally, and his contributions have included correspondingly numerous invitations to chair sessions and conference organising committees, testifying to his international reputation as an authority on endocrinology and hypertension.

John Funder’s extensive editorial responsibilities include membership of the editorial boards of 26 journals and specific editorial responsibilities for four. The long list of undergraduate and doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows who have benefited from his supervision attests to his investment in and dedication to research training and teaching, and his students’ own illustrious careers to the quality of his tuition. He has on occasion extended his membership of a number of professional organisations to exercising his talent for leadership – his roles with The Australian Society for Medical Research during the late 1970s and early ‘80s were of particular note; he was subsequently President of the Endocrine Society of Australia (1983-4), Chairman of the International Society for Endocrinology (1996-2000), and in 2001 was the first non-North American to be elected to the Council of the Endocrine Society (USA).

An extraordinarily broad range of local, interstate and international appointments stand as evidence to the value placed on his expertise, experience and involvement across the world. For example, in addition to a web of appointments with medical and research organisations, he served as chair of the Board of VicHealth for seven years and of SANE Australia for eleven years; on the Board of the start-up company CBio (2004-11). His work on the boards of the Harold Mitchell Foundation, the Finkel Foundation and the Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Research Foundation, continues to enhance the philanthropic arena and advance the health of communities and individuals.

John has quoted the words of Machiavelli: ‘There is nothing more difficult and dangerous, or more doubtful of success, than an attempt to introduce a new order of things – for the innovator has for enemies all those who derived advantage from the old order, while those who expect to benefit from the new will be but lukewarm defenders.’

John Funder’s work in cardiovascular endocrinology has championed a new order of things to the benefit of many patients.  His insights and lucid advocacy inform its most passionate defence.