Professor Judith Ann Whitworth AC

Citation for the award of the 2021 Sir William Upjohn Medal

Professor Judith Ann Whitworth AC has had a remarkable career in clinical medicine, basic and clinical research and academic leadership in Australia and internationally. She has held important positions such as Professor of Medicine at the University of NSW, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and Director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research at ANU.

Following basic medical and clinical training at the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Professor Whitworth undertook a PhD at the Howard Florey Institute, studying the mechanism of glucocorticoid induced hypertension. She made novel observations at this time that influence our understanding of the causes of hypertension. Research at basic, applied and clinical levels into the mechanisms and treatment of high blood pressure have been a constant theme of her research and has resulted in more than 500 scientific publications.

Following a period as a nephrologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Professor Whitworth was appointed as Professor of Medicine at St George Hospital, University of NSW. She was then appointed as the Chief Medical Officer for Australia. Professor Whitworth transformed this position, elevating its status, role and effectiveness. Professor Whitworth was then appointed Director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research at ANU. This distinguished medical research institute was at that time languishing with low morale, poor facilities and declining research productivity. Professor Whitworth was instrumental in turning all of these around and was responsible for obtaining the funding for a new building which was essential for the School’s productivity and competitiveness.

The national standing of Professor Whitworth is demonstrated by the award of honorary doctorates by three universities, her leadership roles in NHMRC and WHO, her 20 invited visiting professorships and lectureships and her appointment as Companion in the Order of Australia along with a number of other awards and honours.

Importantly, Professor Whitworth has been uncompromising in her support of excellence and integrity and for decisions based on evidence. She has been a generous and exemplary role model and mentor for young scientists and doctors and an inspiration to young women.

Professor Whitworth’s contributions are distinguished by their breadth and the legacy created by her mentorship of others, transformation of systems that protect and improve the health of the nation.