Wednesday, April 17, 2024

NZ-first Chalmers Medal win for Otago health expert

An Otago global health expert has received international honours for his tropical medicine research and mentoring of early career scientists.

Professor John Crump (pictured), Professor of Medicine, Pathology and Global Health, and Otago Global Health Institute leadership group member, has received the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s (RSTMH) Chalmers Medal – one of the Society’s highest honours.

He is the first New Zealander to be awarded the Chalmers Medal and joins a renowned group of past recipients, including a Nobel Prize laureate who developed the yellow fever vaccine.

The Chalmers Medal is awarded to one person annually. Professor Crump received the medal for his major contributions to understanding non-malaria fever in poorer countries and his work mentoring many early career researchers in low and middle-income countries.

“It’s a great honour to receive the Chalmers Medal. The list of recipients over almost a century includes many heroes in tropical medicine and global health, also mirroring developments and progress in my field over a period of great change,” said Professor Crump.

“I’m very grateful to my collaborators in Tanzania, Myanmar and elsewhere who have made this work possible.”

The award was announced at the Medal and Awards Ceremony of the Society’s Annual Meeting in Liverpool last week. Professor Crump was not able to attend, but provided a pre-recorded message.

Professor Crump was nominated for the award by Professor David Mabey, Professor of Communicable Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Professor Mabey says, “Professor Crump’s research has changed the way that we study and think about fever in the tropics. Since fever is the fundamental clinical problem in our field, his work touches millions of patients needing healthcare in poorly resourced areas every day.

“While making major contributions to scientific advancement in our field, John has also helped develop the careers of many early career scientists in the countries he collaborates with.”

Professor Crump has worked in his field for more than 25 years. He graduated MB ChB and MD from the University of Otago and trained in both infectious diseases and medical microbiology in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and the United States. He worked for a decade in Tanzania where he continues a partnership with local researchers.

He says he has always been interested in global health issues and is “really glad” he went down the career path he did, even though there were few mentors in New Zealand when he started.

“We need to pay attention to health problems beyond our own country. Most global health problems cannot be solved by countries working in isolation.”

The international response to the COVID-19 pandemic showed there was still a long way to go.

“It is a privilege to work on bringing attention to infectious diseases that go largely unnoticed but sadly cause many deaths every day. More importantly, supporting early career researchers in the most affected countries is both a great pleasure and a means to making progress that I could only dream of.”

Awarded annually since 1923, the silver gilt Chalmers Medal is named for Dr Albert John Chalmers, MD, FRCS, DPH, who was born in Manchester in 1870 and had a distinguished career in tropical medicine in various countries, including Ghana, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

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