Queen’s Birthday Award recognises gender equity champion

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Walter and Eliza Hall Institute director Professor Doug Hilton has been appointed an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia as part of the Queen's Birthday Honours List for 2016.

The award recognises Professor Hilton’s service to medical research, in particular his advocacy for gender equity in science and his commitment to supporting young researchers.

Professor Hilton is a cancer researcher who was appointed as the sixth director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in 2009. He is also the head of the Department of Medical Biology and an honorary principal fellow in the School of Biosciences at The University of Melbourne, and the current president of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes.

As director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Professor Hilton has championed initiatives to redress gender imbalance at senior levels of medical research, including:

  • the establishment of fellowships for female faculty at the Institute;
  • implementation of policies requiring equal representation of men and women as speakers at Institute events;
  • assistance for women scientists with young children including provision of maternity leave cover, contract extensions, and childcare support; and
  • ensuring workplace flexibility for people with carer responsibilities.

Professor Hilton’s work has spanned basic research to innovative development. His research achievements include discovering hormones and pathways used by cells to communicate with each other. He was also the director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Cellular Growth Factors for five years, was co-founder of a biotechnology company and has spearheaded collaborations with international and Australian biopharmaceutical companies.

Professor Hilton said he felt humbled by his award.

“For almost of all of the past 30 years, since I was 21, I have been a cancer researcher at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute,” he said. “As a high school or university student, I could not have imagined that research would be such a wonderful journey. It has been amazing to work with so many brilliant and passionate people – my mentors, my peers and many younger scientists. The ability to follow your curiosity but also work to improve the health, economy and innovative spirit of the country is a great privilege."

Professor Hilton’s scientific achievements and contributions to gender equity have been recognised more widely:

  • election as a fellow of three of Australia's learned academies - Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (2015), the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (2010) and the Australian Academy of Science (2004);
  • appointment as an inaugural Male Champion of Change by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (2015);
  • the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research (2013);
  • the Seymour & Vivian Milstein Award for Excellence from International Cytokine and Interferon Society (2011); and,
  • the inaugural Commonwealth Health Minister's Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research (2000).