The Ruthven Blackburn Medal winner

18 September 2019
Prof Sorrell recognised for her distinguished contribution to clinical research
The Medal is awarded to a senior staff member of SMS in recognition of a sustained, distinguished and notable contribution to clinical research and demonstrated commitment to mentoring junior colleagues.

Along with cardiologist Prof David Celermajor, MBI's Professor Tania Sorrell was honoured at the Sydney School of Medicine "Celebrating Success" awards evening on Monday, 9 September, being awarded the Ruthven Blackburn Medal for Distinguished Contribution to Clinical Research.

This award commemorates the life’s work of Professor Charles Ruthven Bickerton Blackburn AC (1913-2016), who was a pioneer of clinical research at the University of Sydney.  Professor Blackburn was Bosch Professor and Head of the Department of Medicine for 21 years from 1957. Passionate about the importance of linking research to patient outcomes, he was instrumental in building clinical research capability at the university’s teaching hospitals, later the Clinical Schools of Sydney Medical School (SMS). As part of this initiative he dedicated himself to the development and mentoring of a generation of future clinical and research leaders, many of whom went on to play eminent roles in their fields, both in Australia and abroad.

Professor Tania Sorrell

Tania qualified in Medicine in 1970, obtained her MD in 1975 and became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP) in 1978. She was appointed Director of Infectious Diseases at Westmead Hospital in 1979. In 1988 she became Professor of Clinical Infectious Diseases, University of Sydney. Tania is the founding Director of the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, Director of an NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence: “Protecting the Public from Emerging Infectious Diseases” and Service Director for Infectious Diseases and Sexual Health, WSLHD Division of Medicine and Cancer Services.

In 2013, Tania was recognized by the NHMRC as one of Australia’s all-time high achievers in health and medical research. The following year she was awarded Member of the Order of Australia (AM) and in 2015, she was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. Professor Sorrell is acknowledged as a world leader in Cryptococcus research. With colleagues, she has pioneered the application of magnetic resonance spectroscopy to non-invasive diagnosis of human brain infections and to identification and susceptibility testing of micro-organisms in clinical diagnostics. They have also pioneered MRS-based biochemical profiling of cerebrospinal fluid for diagnosis of meningitis. Recently her lab has collaborated with an industry partner in design and development of a highly multiplexed tandem PCR platform for rapid examination of up to 70 DNA/RNA probes simultaneously and they are translating the resulting diagnostic sets into clinical practice.

She has been a mentor and inspiration to numerous junior infectious diseases clinicians and researchers within the University of Sydney and beyond. In fact, her “alumni network” stretches across Australia, with links to Europe and the US.


Professor David Celermajer

David is the Scandrett Professor of Cardiology based at the Central Clinical School and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He holds an Honours MBBS, MSc on a Rhodes Scholarship, PhD and DSc which have complemented the professional fellowships (FRACP, FAHA, FCSANZ, FAA). David was recognised for his contributions to medicine and education with an Officer of the Order of Australia and FAAHMS. He was recognised by the RACP at an early stage of his career for his research with the peak Eric Susman Medal over 20 years ago and since then he has received numerous national and state awards recognising "lifetime" contribution to cardiology/ heart health endeavours. In the 1980's David developed new techniques for the non-invasive investigation and detection of silent atherosclerotic disease and small vessel damage. The techniques were subsequently applied by hundreds of researchers and have been validated to be useful in assessing the impact of environmental and endogenous factors affecting vascular health. Some of the most significant impact of his work has been in the detection of the effects of passive smoking on vascular health of children and with the recognition of that policy change followed in many countries. He has contributed over 500 published peer reviewed articles to the scientific literature with over 60,000 career citations and numerous patents. David has reached out to industry and venture capital to promote new technologies that might help improve the care of people with complex cardiovascular valvular diseases. He is a mentor to many emerging research leaders and has shared his insights into industry and academic interactions.