3 December 1998

Information technology expert to receive University of Queensland honorary degree

The chief executive and founder of an Australian world-leading computer and software company will receive an honorary doctorate at a University of Queensland graduation ceremony on December 7.

Faculty of Engineering, Physical Sciences and Architecture students will receive their awards in engineering at a 4pm ceremony. Architecture, design studies, regional and town planning and information students will receive awards at a 6.15pm ceremony.

The Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of world-leading Australian computer and software company Mincom, David Merson, (telephone 07 3303 3333) will receive an honorary Doctor of Engineering for his contribution to information technology at a graduation ceremony at 4pm.

Mr Merson, who graduated from the University bachelor of engineering (electrical engineering) in 1964 and bachelor of economics in 1969, co-founded the Brisbane-based company in 1979.

Mincom is Australia's largest exporter of computer software. It has an annual turnover of more than $118 million and 1050 employees in 14 countries. Its products are used in more than 20 countries and its export achievements have been recognised by Austrade, the Queensland Government, and industry bodies.

Mincom software is used at around 400 sites globally. Last year the company signed a partnership with the American equipment giant Caterpillar.

Mr Merson will be the guest speaker at the 4pm ceremony, while Sally Benham, who will graduate with bachelor of civil engineering with first-class honours, will deliver the valedictorian address.

Architecture department head Professor Michael Keniger will be the guest speaker at the 6.15pm ceremony, and Kelly Christ, who will receive her bachelor of architecture with first-class honours, will be the student speaker.

Graduates of interest at the ceremonies include the following.

o Bachelor of engineering degrees come in twos for some families. Hui-Shen Chung and her sister, Hui-Yu, graduate bachelor of engineering (chemical) at the ceremony. They can be contacted on telephone 07 3371 5174.

o Husband and wife team Drs Kamol and Praneed Songwathana will receive PhDs at ceremonies on December 7 and December 4 respectively. Prawn aquaculture in Songkla Province, Thailand, and its effects on the environment was the subject of Dr Kamol Songwathana's thesis through the Geographical Sciences and Planning Department while Dr Praneed Songwathana examined domiciliary and community-based care for AIDS patients in southern Thailand for her doctorate with the University's Tropical Health Program.

Both work at the Prince of Songkla University - Dr Kamol Songwathana is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Management Sciences and Dr Praneed Songwathana a lecturer in the Faculty of Nursing. The couple's two daughters (Joey, aged 8, and Janny, aged 4) will be present to watch their parents receive their degrees, along with Dr Kamol Songwathana's brother Visuth and his wife Sukanya.

Dr Praneed Songwathana's study on the care and treatment of AIDS patients was carried out in the Hat Yai district, Songkhla Province in southern Thailand.

She found southern Thai people attached great social stigma to AIDS, associating it with dirt, danger and death and, particularly in rural areas, did not differentiate it from HIV. Because of this stigma and fear of rejection, patients often delayed treatment until visible symptoms appeared. They strongly preferred the traditional Thai way of dying while being cared for at home, which put the onus on spouses and parents, particularly mothers, as primary caregivers.

There is expected to be an increase in people with AIDS dying at home, and Dr Songwathana found an urgent need existed to show concern for carers by strengthening the traditional support systems of caregiving in Thai culture. However, caring for AIDS patients would not be effective without a greater understanding of AIDS-related beliefs and stigma which varied and affected care, and which influenced a large support of community members.

Support was particularly needed among women afflicted and affected with AIDS, elder parents, poor and rural people. Women were more likely than men to attribute HIV/AIDS to karma, and then accept their responsibility and to fulfil their role and obligation with the hope of happiness in future life.

Dr Songwathana found lack of opportunity and accessibility to services and information, lack of financial resources and medical aid, led to considerable suffering by both patients and caregivers. She suggested health education, training and continued support for people and carers who were affected by HIV/AIDS in local settings should be extended beyond biomedical concepts of illness and care, and beyond clinical care settings.

Dr Praneed Songwathana can be contacted on telephone +66-74-211-030-49 Ext. 5612, facsimile +66-74-212901 or email spraneed@ratree.psu.ac.th

For more information, contact Graduations Officer Karen Welsh (telephone 07 3365 2898).