4 December 1997

1997 University of Queensland Alumnus of the Year Dr H. Rodney Withers will receive his award and address graduates, at a University graduation ceremony for future doctors and other health professionals on Friday, December 5.

Graduates will receive their bachelor of medicine and surgery degrees and bachelor of applied science (Indigenous Health Care) degrees at the 5pm ceremony in Mayne Hall.
They will then attend a 7.30pm dinner for 1020 guests at the Brisbane Convention Centre, addressed by University of Queensland Professor of surgery, Professor Russell Strong of the Brisbane Liver Transplant team.

Other graduation ceremony highlights include:

- One of the few known all medical surf boat lifesaver crews in the world will graduate; and

- 1997 University of Queensland Medical Society (UQMS) President Chris Zappala will deliver the valedictorian address to fellow graduates.

- Dr Withers, a 1956 medicine graduate, also this year won the United States government's oldest known science and technology award.
Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the UCLA School of Medicine, Dr Withers shared the US Department of Energy's Enrico Fermi award and a $100,000 honorarium with Colorado State University radiological health sciences professor Mortimer Elkind.
Dr Withers and Dr Elkind won the award for their collaborative investigation of healthy and malignant cell responses to irradiation, establishing a scientific basis for radiation therapy as an anti-cancer treatment.
Their work also demonstrated the benefits of administering small doses of radiation at regular intervals which, when compared to a single, intense dose of radiation, resulted in less damage to the normal tissue of cancer patients and more damage to cancer cells.
It also showed that cancer, like normal tissues, can respond to injury by a speeded-up growth process.
U.S. President Bill Clinton said the work of the two scientists provided an 'example of how science benefits the work and personal lives of Americans on a daily basis'.
Their work was an inspiration to young people considering scientific careers, he said.
Dr Withers, also a clinical research professor of the American Cancer Society, is known for his work on post-radiation repair and the effects of ionising radiation on normal tissues. Many of the techniques he developed are now being used in laboratories throughout the world.
His awards include the 1991 H.S. Kaplan Distinguished Scientist Award from the International Association for Radiation Research, the 1991 American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology gold medal, the 1994 Janeway Medal of the American Radium Society, the 1988 Failla Award (Radiation Research Society) and the 1995 Gray Medal of the International Commission on Radiation Units Measurements.
After graduating from the University of Queensland, Dr Withers worked as a radiation oncologist at the Queensland Radium Institute.

He was awarded the University of Queensland Gaggin Fellowship, and went to the University of London to pursue PhD studies, later gaining a doctorate of science from the same institution.

- The group known at Alexandra Headland Surf Life Savers Club as 'the Doctors' Crew' will graduate at the ceremony. Andrew Burke, Paul McCarthy, Patrick Weinrauch and Steve Cook are believed to comprise one of the few all medical crews competing in the demanding sport of surf boat racing. They decided to form a surf boat team to keep fit several years ago. To qualify, they all completed surf lifesaver training and patrolled beaches, making Alexandra Headland one of the safest beaches in Australia for people requiring medical attention. They have competed in reserve grade in the Australian national championships for the past two years. Earlier this year they were able to train every afternoon while all four completed paediatrics training at Nambour Base Hospital. While three crew members are currently not training, Paul McCarthy is now competing in A grade surf boat rowing races for the Club. Patrick Weinrauch is also still a surf lifesaver at Alexandra Headland. All four have military connections - Mr Burke and Mr Weinrauch are members of the Australian Army Reserve while Mr McCarthy and Mr Cook hold RAAF scholarships. Next year Mr Burke will complete a one-year internship at Royal Darwin Hospital, and he hopes to further study tropical medicine. The other team members are interested in surgery. Mr McCarthy will stay at Nambour Base Hospital, close to Alexandra Headland SLSC, while Mr Weinrauch will complete his internship at Townsville General Hospital and Mr Cook at Princess Alexandra Hospital. For further information, contact Mr Burke telephone 07 3268 2289.

- Mr Zappala, the former School Captain of St Paul's School, Bald Hills (1991) and president of the School's Past Students Association, has won several major awards, including bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh awards, the Sir John Wienholt Scholarship for anatomy and physiology (1994) and the Neville G. Sutton Bursary in surgery (1996). He will start work as an intern next year at Royal Brisbane Hospital and would like to specialise in an as yet unspecified area. He is interested in cardiology, a specialty he studied in Norwich, English at the end of 1996 while doing his fifth year elective overseas. A level three adjudicator for the Queensland Debating Union, his interests also include indoor soccer, camping, bushwalking, and studying for a Licentiate Diploma in Music (Pianoforte). He can be contacted on telephone 07 3263 3810.

- Dr David Purdie will graduate as a Doctor of Philosophy on December 5. Dr Purdie's thesis looked at risk factors for ovarian cancer. Pregnancy and use of the oral contraceptive pill reduce a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer, according to the study, conducted at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research.

Based in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Dr Purdie headed the team which surveyed 1679 women and found the most consistent factors associated with ovarian cancer related to women's reproductive and contraceptive histories. Dr Purdie can be contacted on telephone 07 3240 5992.

For more information, contact Protocol Officer Karen Welsh (telephone 07 3365 2737).