Richard R H Lovell AO

Citation for the award of the 1982 Sir William Upjohn Medal

In 1955 Richard Lovell arrived in Melbourne to take up the University of Melbourne Foundation James Stewart Chair of Medicine, based at the Royal Melbourne and Alfred Hospitals. A graduate of London University, he trained at St Mary’s Hospital in London where under George Pickering, head of the Professorial Medical Unit, he developed an interest in epidemiology which formed a fundamental platform for his research. At St Mary’s he also met Charles McMoran Wilson, later Lord Moran, whose biography, Churchill’s doctor he was to write in retirement.

The James Stewart Chair of Medicine was created with the introduction of university departments in the hospitals – a major change for the senior hospital staff. Richard Lovell created a culture of basing clinical practice on evidence and established one of the best academic medical units in the country making a considerable contribution to the advancement of Australian medicine.

Recognising the value of cadaveric renal transplantation in the treatment of end-stage renal failure, he collaborated with Maurice Ewing, Foundation James Stewart Professor of Surgery, and Priscilla Kincaid-Smith on the successful introduction of kidney transplants into routine medical practice in Australia. He also made significant research advances into high blood pressure and optimal treatment of heart attack. He played the major role in organising the Australian Hypertension Study, an early prototype multicentre study showing the efficacy of hypotensive therapy in reducing risk of stroke, combining the results of several medical studies to determine the effectiveness of anticoagulant therapy and antiarrhythmic therapy in preventing death following myocardial infarction: a technique now known as meta-analysis. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1978.

Upon his retirement from the University in 1983 Dick Lovell continued to contribute to medical research.  He worked part-time as epidemiologist and administrator with the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, and brought his deep interest in medical ethics, particularly as they applied to research, to the role of inaugural Chair of the Medical Research Ethics Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council from 1982-88. As part-time Convener of Continuing Education for the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Melbourne, he also introduced an annual series of medical ethics seminars at the University, facilitating broad public discussion of issues facing the Medical Research Ethics Committee.