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Honours aplenty

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust
Published online: 7 July 2014

Medical and health professionals featured prominently on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Professor Jeffrey Dunn, CEO of Cancer Council Queensland, was proud to be one of them.

Professor Jeffrey Dunn is quick to point out that he is not medically qualified but as an employee of the Cancer Council Queensland (CCQ) for the past 25 years, the last 12 as chief executive officer, he certainly qualifies as a major influencer.

Professor Dunn was made an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO) in the recent Queen’s Birthday Honours for “distinguished service to medical administration through leadership roles with cancer control organisations, and to the promotion of innovative and integrated cancer care programs”.

“It’s a very nice thing”, Professor Dunn says of the honour.

A behavioural scientist by training, Professor Dunn says he’s only had three “real jobs” — stints with the Endeavour Foundation and for Queensland Health at their Wolston Park facility, working in the field of intellectual disabilities; and then with CCQ since 1988.

He’s seen some remarkable advances in cancer survival, treatment and community engagement in that time.

“In the 1980s survival rates for cancer in Queensland were around 50%”, Professor Dunn tells the MJA.

“Now it’s almost 70%, thanks to progress in downstaging the point of diagnosis and other medical advances.

“The number of smokers has halved but it’s still the single largest cause of disease in our community.

“For the first time we’re seeing rates of melanoma per 100 000 decreasing in people aged under 40 years and that’s a direct consequence of public health campaigns like Slip, Slop, Slap and others.

“We are the best in the world at diagnosing melanomas.”

Looking forward, Professor Dunn has three priorities.

“First, we must continue to support medical research”, he says.

“Then, we must put what we know into place in the community. We know that if we can put current knowledge into practice we reduce incidence rates of cancers by about 30%. If we could modify our behaviours in terms of the things we do, what we eat, how heavy we are, how much exercise we get, we could reduce mortality by up to 40%.

“Third, we must share access to the benefits of new technology across Australia. Equal access is vital and that’s where we fall down.

“It’s not all about geography, although of course that is a big factor. If you look at a cancer atlas of Queensland you will see that the further you get from Brisbane the less likely you are to survive cancer, but there are pockets close to Brisbane as well.

“Apart from geography, it’s also about health literacy and economic capacity.

“It’s about how we get the messages out into the communities”, Professor Dunn says.

“Cancer is complex, it’s not just a problem for researchers, patients, doctors and politicians — it’s a problem for all of us, a community problem.

“What frustrates me sometimes is working out how we can address all the different fronts — individual responsibility for our own health, improving compliance with government-provided screening programs, conflicting messages.

“Imagine if everyone who was eligible for a colorectal screening test actually presented for one — mortality would drop.”

Professor Dunn was one of 13 in the health and medical field who received AOs. The others were Professor Peter Blumbergs, neuropathologist and executive committee member of the Hanson Institute Centre for Neurological Diseases; Professor Warwick Britton, immunologist specialising in tuberculosis and leprosy, and Bosch Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney; Dr Gwendolyn Jamieson, deputy chair of the Australian Women’s Health Network; Professor Heather Jeffery, paediatrician and neonatologist, principal chief investigator for the South East Asia - Using Research for Change in Hospital-acquired Infection in Neonates project; Emeritus Professor J Miles Little, founder and director of the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine at the University of Sydney; Emeritus Professor Anne Mitchell, from La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society; Professor Michael Morgan, neurovascular surgeon, researcher and educator at Macquarie University; Professor John Myburgh, director of the Division of Critical Care and Trauma at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney; Professor Terence Nolan, chair of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation; Professor Alan Rosen, psychiatrist and clinical associate professor at the Brain and Mind Research Institute and Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Sydney; Professor Ingrid Scheffer, director of paediatrics, neurologist and epilepsy specialist at Austin Health and Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne; and Professor Martin Silink, endocrinologist and former president of the International Diabetes Federation.

The full Queen’s Birthday Honours list is available at https://www.gg.gov.au/queens-birthday-2014-honours-list

Cate Swannell
  • Cate Swannell


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