Her Royal Highness, Princess Astrid of Belgium meets with University of Melbourne’s Department of Otolaryngology

A delegation from Belgium, including Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid, have toured the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital with Professor Stephen O’Leary, leader of the University’s Department of Otolaryngology.

The Princess was a part of the Belgium Economic Mission to Australia and was at the hospital to tour the new research and education facilities and view ground-breaking research. Accompanying Professor O’Leary were Chancellor Jane Hansen, Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell and Deputy Dean Professor Mike McGuckin.

Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid (center-right) with members of the University of Melbourne and the Belgian Economic Mission.

Her Royal Highness witnessed the signing of an official collaboration agreement between the Giga Institute of Belgium and the University of Melbourne’s Otolaryngology Department. Previous research programmes and collaboration between the two organisations have resulted in improved hearing outcomes by preserving a patient’s natural hearing during cochlear implantation.

Deputy Dean Professor Mike McGuckin said, "It was a pleasure to meet with Her Royal Highness, Princess Astrid of Belgium at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital to strengthen the University's Otolaryngologist Department's key partnership with the Giga Institute in Belgium and showcase the ground-breaking medical enhancements we have been able to achieve with this partnership. It was amazing to see our Honorary Professor and Belgian national, Associate Professor Jean Marc Gerard, receive a knighthood from the Princess. We look forward to continuing our research with our Belgian partners to further more positive outcomes for patients."

The new research undertaken by the University of Melbourne’s Otolaryngology Department has resulted in a new hearing monitoring system that combines technology and surgical methods to allow surgeons to identify the moment during implant surgery when natural hearing was lost and modify their surgery to save it. Furthermore, the new system has been commercialised in Mechelen, Belgium by the Cochlear Technology Centre. Patients who use hearing aids can now benefit from natural and electric hearing once they undergo cochlear surgery.

The cochlear implant was first invented by Professor Graeme Clark AC, ear surgeon and neuroscientist and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne and a member of The Graeme Clark Institute for Biomedical Engineering, which was named in his honour and seeks to transform healthcare with biomedical engineering.

Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid was joined by Her Excellency Caroline Millar, Australian Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the EU and NATO, His Excellency Ambassador Jeroen Cooreman, Director General for Bilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belgium, His Excellency Willy Borsus, Vice-President of the Wallonia Government, Professor Luc Sels, Rector KU Leuven, and His Excellency Matthias Diependaele, Flemish Minister for Finance and Budget, Housing and Immovable Heritage.