10 December 2010

A vet who helped avert international disease outbreaks has been awarded The University of Queensland (UQ) Gatton Gold Medal for 2010.

Dr Denis Hoffman, from Kandanga on the Sunshine Coast hinterland, was acknowledged for his contribution to international veterinary science in Australia and overseas.

His veterinary career began at the Queensland Agricultural College (which became the UQ Gatton Campus) when he graduated in 1964 with a Queensland Diploma in Animal Husbandry.

Internationally recognised as a leader in the field of virology, Dr Hoffman helped save the Hong Kong horse racing industry from disaster by introducing a control program to stop the spread of mosquito-borne equine infectious anemia, which had infected 80 percent of the horses at the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club stables.

After Hong Kong, Dr Hoffmann became District and Acting Regional Veterinary in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. His time there fueled an interest in tropical veterinary medicine and further study.

He returned to Australia where he took up a research position in the Department of Veterinary Pathology and Public Health at his alma mater, UQ, later completing a PhD with studies on bovine, ocular squamous cell carcinoma.

This research led to pioneering work on papilloma virus, successful immunotherapy of a naturally occurring cancer and recognition of a novel technique for animal tear collection.

As part of this work, Dr Hoffmann collaborated with Professor Zur Hausen, of Germany, leading to a joint publication that characterised a new type of bovine papilloma virus.

Wanting to further his interests in development aid work, Dr Hoffmann took up a position with CSIRO in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, where he established disease control protocols that resulted in the establishment of a new, national animal production research institute.

Dr Hoffman said his work in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia helped show him the importance of providing assistance to developing countries.

“It is of mutual benefit to Australia and developing countries to work together to improve animal health,” Dr Hoffman said.

“Australian scientists who can assist with training and developing disease control programs in developing countries are also assisting animal production industries back in Australia by reducing the risk of disease entering the country.”

Dr Hoffmann continues to represent Australian research and problem-solving expertise through frequent consultancies in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific at the request of such bodies as the Australian Government, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the Government of The Netherlands and the World Health Organisation.

Dr Hoffmann will return to UQ Gatton to receive his award at the Gatton graduation ceremony at 11am on Saturday, 11 December 2010.

Students studying at UQ Gatton campus will graduate with degrees in agribusiness, agricultural studies, animal studies, natural resource studies, rangeland management, applied science, environmental management and research higher degrees.

Media inquiries, and to arrange interviews: Erin Pearl, Faculty of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Veterinary Science, (07 5460 1229, 0409 265 587, e.pearl@uq.edu.au)