Laureation address – Professor James Best

Friday 24 June 2011

Professor James Best
Honorary Degree of Doctor of Medicine

Laureation by Emeritus Professor Ian Campbell
School of Medicine
Friday 24 June 2011

Professor James Best

Chancellor, it is my privilege to present Professor James Best, Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, for the degree of Doctor of Medicine, honoris causa.

Professor Best is Head, Melbourne Medical School, University of Melbourne and a member of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australia’s principal funding body for medical research. Professor Best graduated in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Melbourne in 1972. He trained in Endocrinology in St Vincent’s Hospital (SVH), Melbourne and in diabetes research at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA.

Professor Best was appointed as Professor of Medicine at University of Melbourne and Head of Department of Medicine (SVH), from 1999, resigning in 2007 to become Head, Melbourne Medical School. The Melbourne Medical School, which will celebrate its 150th anniversary next year, was established in 1862 and is the leading medical school in Australia by all major international ranking systems. It was founded by a St Andrews graduate who also became an Honorary LLD of the University of St Andrews. As Head of School, Professor Best has been responsible for the restructuring of the 23 departments in the School, including the development of a graduate entry curriculum. The School was ranked in the top 20 worldwide in 2010 by the Times Higher Education Supplement.

Professor Best has had a major commitment to clinical research for over 30 years, with more than 200 peer-reviewed clinical publications in the field of diabetes, insulin resistance, lipid disorders, renal disease and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. His research has always included patient based studies but has incorporated basic physiology and biochemistry, and molecular and cellular biology. Professor Best is a Chief Investigator on an NHMRC Program Grant in Indigenous Health and on the executive committee for the FIELD study, an internationally recognised clinical trial in 10,000 people with type 2 diabetes. He is also a Chief Investigator on the Greater Green Triangle Diabetes Prevention Project which has led to the development and rollout of the Life! Program for diabetes prevention in 25,000 people at high risk. His research achievements have ranged from the discovery of a novel glucose transporter protein to the development of new methods for diabetes care in General Practice. This breadth of research expertise has been recognised by his appointment for five years as Chair of the committee that oversees the Australian government’s 500 million pound (BP) annual investment in medical research.

Professor Best has had a long standing interest in Indigenous health which is the major health disparity in Australia. He has been involved in collaborative work in assessing cardiovascular risk factors in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. He has ensured that the Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Diabetes has undertaken work to assess how diabetes could be better provided for rural Australians – another particularly Australian disparity.

Professor Best is a clinician, a teacher and educator, a researcher, linking basic science to the care of patients with diabetes, with particular emphasis on Indigenous and rural populations. Further recognition of his achievements has been recognised with the award of Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists UK in 1996, and the Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 2002. This award today to one of the outstanding physicians in Australia is particularly appropriate as we celebrate our 600th anniversary.

Chancellor, in recognition of his major contribution to medicine and in particular to the branch of diabetes and metabolism, I invite you to confer on James Best the degree of Doctor of Medicine, honoris causa.

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