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Ingham awards night: the Oscars night of research

If anyone had inadvertently walked into the Arena at the William Inglis Hotel, Warwick Farm last Thursday night, they might have been a bit confused. So polished and so classy was the 7th Ingham Institute Annual Awards Dinner that it could easily have been mistaken for the Oscars was it not for its location in South West Sydney.

From the moment guests sat down at their tables they discovered that the evening was one in which attention to detail reigned. A box of chocolates by Silver Sponsor, Max Brenner Australia, awaited for each guest along with a small gift from the Ingham Institute. A dinner menu, that equalled some of the menus of Sydney’s best restaurants, had guests eagerly awaiting each course of their three-course dinner.

But the night wasn’t about food, no matter how delicious it was. The night was all about recognising the phenomenal work of medical researchers in South West Sydney.  Prime Minister, The Hon. Scott Morrison, whose video message was played on the night, had nothing but praise for the Ingham Institute and its researchers.

“Tonight’s awards are an opportunity to celebrate the hardworking medical researchers at the Ingham Institute. Your work helps to improve the lives of those here in our local community and overseas by you, being at your best, at the forefront of global medical innovation,” he said.

Other speakers including Master of Ceremonies, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, the Institute’s Chairman Terry Goldacre, Director, John Ingham, CEO Darryl Harkness, Research Director, Les Bokey, and Chief Executive SWSLHD , Ms Amanda Larkin, all continued to shine a light on the exemplary work of the Institute’s researchers.

Kerri-Anne Kennerley provided a touch of class as Master of Ceremonies

With six awards on offer, guests were eager to hear who had been selected. The first award of the night was The Early Career Research Award. This award recognises an individual who has attained a PhD no more than five years ago and who has made a significant contribution to research. Presented by Event Partner, Coolmore Australia, the award went to Dr Allan ‘Ben’ Smith who dedicated his award to “all the cancer researchers at the Institute.” Since starting at the Ingham Institute, Ben has developed innovative research programs focused on improving the accessibility, equity and sustainability of high-quality evidence-based cancer care.

The Higher Degree Student Prize Award, sponsored by the Ingham Institute, was awarded to Marra Aghajani for her PhD research into personalised patient treatment for advanced thyroid cancer patients. Marra thanked her supervisors, Dr Tara Roberts and Professor Paul de Souza for providing her with the opportunity to pursue her PhD research at the Institute.

The South West Sydney Research Collaborative Achievement Award, which recognises the importance of collaboration in research, was presented by Grainne O’Loughlin and awarded to the “Help! My toddler’s not talking” team which included clinicians and researchers across disciplines, institutions and international boundaries. (Read full story here)

Kelsey Dobell-Brown was awarded The Excellence in Teaching Award, sponsored by South West Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) and presented by Mr Sam Haddad, Chair of the SWSLHD Board. The award recognises her commitment to the development of learning and curriculum development in the district. Kelsey established the Clinical Trials Support Unit and over the last four years has trained over 260 LHD staff.

Mr Tony Perich AM, from The Perich Group and sponsor of the Best Administration and Research Support Award, presented the award to Mary Knopp for her extraordinary administrative contributions to her research group – The Centre for Health Equity Training, Research and Evaluation (CHETRE). Mary has been working with the group since its inception and is often described as the “conscience and sixth sense” of the group.

The Awards part of the evening ended with the announcement of the prestigious, Lady Fairfax Distinguished Researcher Award which went to Professor Evelyne De Leeuw. Although not present on the night, Professor De Leeuw delighted the audience with a previously-recorded video in which she made humorous reference to accepting her award using the advice of Sandra Bullock from the film, Miss Congeniality.

“You flutter your hands a little bit as if in embarrassment …. and then you say something about world peace,” she joked.

And while she did return to world peace at the end of her speech exclaiming, “it would be nice,” Professor De Leeuw was gracious in her acceptance, “I am humbled and even relieved to have been considered for this award.”

Evelyne joined the Institute in 2015 when she was appointed as Professor of Public Health and Director CHETRE. Most recently, CHETRE, under Evelyne’s leadership, was charged with creating a vision of the new Western Sydney International Airport as a healthy airport.

The night ended with live music by the Koi Boys who, not only kept the audience entertained throughout the evening, but had them up on their feet dancing at what can only be described, “like an Oscars after-party, only better.”


The Koi Boys entertained the audience throughout the night


The Ingham Institute thanks the following sponsors for making the evening possible:

Event Partner: Coolmore Australia

Gold Sponsor: Vitocco Enterprises

Silver Sponsor: Max Brenner Australia

Bronze Sponsors: Chris Waller Racing, Crestone Wealth Management, Device Technologies, Equity Trustees, JDH Capital, Komatsu, Marsdens Law Group, Ramsay HealthCare and Winning Commercial.


By Linda Music