Former Chair of IHMRI Professor Alan Pettigrew awarded Honorary Doctorate
Award recognised Professor Pettigrew's services to health and medical research
Professor Alan Pettigrew’s lifelong contribution and lasting influence on research and academia has been recognised with an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Wollongong (UOW).
As the Founding Chair and former Acting Director of the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI), Professor Pettigrew’s wealth of experience brought vision to IHMRI’s operations, having championed the Institute as a vehicle for attracting not just Australia’s but the world’s top scientists to the Illawarra region.
Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of IHMRI Distinguished Professor David Adams, who nominated Professor Pettigrew for this accolade said, “When it comes to experience in the area of medical research governance – in fact, the Higher Education sector more broadly - there are few who stand in the same league as Professor Alan Pettigrew.
“Not only has he played major roles at a number of Australian institutions, including the University of Wollongong, his influence on the research landscape at a national level has set a path forward for Australian research, the benefits of which are still being enjoyed today.”
Professor Pettigrew said he was thrilled to have receive the acclaim after decades of work in research and academia.
“Receiving an honorary degree from the University of Wollongong is a great honour for me, in recognition of my contributions to the University as well as to higher education and medical research generally. To be judged by the University and those peers who nominated me for the award is truly humbling.
“The recognition brings with it a great opportunity to share thoughts and experiences with the graduates at the ceremony, and to share with them some advice arising from one’s own experiences over many years. The advice can arise from the successes and ‘let downs’ that occur in research, to the exciting opportunities that come from the most unexpected outcomes of your approach in your field of interest, to sharing in the excitement of advances made by you and your colleagues, and to the career variations that make one’s working life an exciting and rewarding experience.”
Professor Pettigrew’s career in science commenced with a Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours from the University of Sydney in 1972, followed by a PhD from the same institution in 1975.
Following this he took up postdoctoral roles in Physiology, including in the UK where he was a Nuffield Foundation Travelling Fellow and Scientist.
Returning to Australia in 1979, Pettigrew spent 14 years as an academic at the University of Sydney and served as Deputy Chair to the Academic Board. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute from 1992 through to 1994.
In 1993 he moved to the University of Queensland (UQ) to become Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Biological Sciences), and subsequently became the inaugural Executive Dean of the new Faculty of Biological and Chemical Science. It was following this appointment that Professor Pettigrew began a long association with the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane that continued until 2021.
During his time at UQ, Professor Pettigrew served on several committees and advisory groups, most notably with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), culminating in his appointment by the Commonwealth Minister for Health as the inaugural NHMRC Chief Executive Officer. Professor Pettigrew served in this role between 2001 and 2005, during which time he championed increases in medical research funding. The legacy of this term at the NHMRC means that the sector was set on a growth path and is just one example of Professor Pettigrew’s ability to influence medical research at a national level.
In 2011 he became an Advisor to the Chief Scientist of Australia Professor Ian Chubb. Here Professor Pettigrew was again involved in detailed analysis of the Australian research funding landscape, completing a report commissioned by the Chief Scientist which benchmarked Australia’s research funding and performance against a range of OECD nations. Professor Pettigrew also served for 5 years on the Commonwealth Cooperative Research Centres Committee.
Professor Pettigrew joined the board of IHMRI as Chair when the institute was being established in 2014 and he served as Acting Director until Professor David Adams was appointed.
Professor Pettigrew’s time at IHMRI has left a lasting influence, the effects of which are still being enjoyed by its researchers today. His influence at IHMRI brings improved healthcare to the region, opportunities for local development and investment, as well as industry recognition and respect which assists in gaining government and philanthropic funding.