The illustrious Peter Wills Medal was last night awarded to Professor Kim Mulholland at a gala event in Melbourne, for his lifetime of research to improve the health of children in developing countries. His work has focused on childhood pneumonia, with much involving the evaluation and introduction of new vaccines for the prevention of pneumonia in the developing world.
In a research career spanning more than 30 years, Professor Mulholland has dedicated himself to leading transformative child health research projects across Africa, Asia and the Pacific with incredible outcomes.
His work on childhood pneumonia, malnutrition and the links between the two with the World Health Organisation and others has contributed to new approaches that save the lives of children every day in developing countries.
Research Australia CEO, Nadia Levin says the Peter Wills Medal recognises an Australian who has made an outstanding contribution to building Australia’s international reputation in health and medical research, and fostering collaboration for better health and Professor Mulholland’s work truly illustrates this achievement.
“Professor Mulholland’s global contributions to the problem of childhood pneumonia, past and current, continue today with studies underway in many countries including Vietnam and Mongolia and demonstrate not only his professional commitment to controlling this disease but also his dedication to its eradication.
“The field of Australians doing incredible work and making contributions to populations so far removed from our own as well as closer to home is simply awe-inspiring and it is important that we reflect on their great achievements and celebrate their dedication and the impact they have had and continue to have on the lives of so many people.”
Levin, who leads the national peak body representing the HMR sector said, “the 2017 Peter Wills Medal winner, Professor Kim Mulholland is not only a great Australian, but a truly great global citizen”.
In the Gambia he undertook a series of studies of Haemophilus influenzae or Hib, a bacteria which can cause meningitis and pneumonia, culminating in a large trial of the efficacy of the Hib vaccine in developing countries which then saw it introduced throughout Africa and the developing world. This project was highlighted at the UK Medical Research Council Centenary celebrations as one of their top ten achievements.
In the years that followed, Professor Mulholland was also involved in the design, oversight or analysis of all major pneumococcal conjugate vaccine trials in the developing world. At the WHO he established the Pneumonia Vaccine Trialists group to establish methods to evaluate these vaccines, and from his base in Melbourne he has worked to establish the microbiological, immunological and radiological methods.
Over the past 15 years he has established major projects in Fiji, Vietnam, Mongolia and other settings in Asia and Africa.
In addition to Professor Mulholland’s global achievements, he also founded the Centre for International Child Health in Melbourne, and his influential contributions have established the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute as an international leader in global child health.
He encourages and formally mentors junior colleagues in many countries including in Australia and several of his former students are now making impressive contributions themselves.
He continues to develop new areas of research, including respiratory syncytial virus, human papillomavirus, and the health effects of extreme air pollution. His work is focused on the health needs of the world’s poorest, in line with the principles of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. With each new project he provides opportunities for young researchers to enter the field.
“From the achievements of Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet and Sir Howard Florey to Elizabeth Blackburn and Ian Frazer, Australia has a proud and illustrious history when it comes to medical breakthroughs and charting an influential and significant course in health and medical research. Professor Mulholland continues this tradition.