The real impact of gifts

23 August 2017
Making a difference in areas that need it most

There are lots of stories of achievement unfolding as the University's students and researchers strive to find answers and transform lives. Much of this work can only happen through the support of our donors.

Timor Leste

Most great breakthroughs are a team effort. Anyone who donates money to help the work happen, is also a vital member of that team. But it’s not just about research. Every gift to the University helps all sorts of stories to be told. 

When even the basics are missing

Emerging from a chaotic history, Timor-Leste still faces enormous challenges, not least that half its population, or 1.2 million people, live in deep poverty.

Professor Peter McMinn (MBBS ’82, MD ’13) is doing what he can to make the health of these people less precarious, since any illness that prevents a person working, also pushes them deeper into poverty. Thanks to his work, the country now has its first ever medical laboratory.

This facility provides services that Australians take for granted. It has taken some of the guess work out of diagnosing diseases and allowed programs to be undertaken where disease trends in the population can be identified and programs started to protect the vulnerable.

A little can do a lot. A single donation funded a two year program which looked at why so many children under five were admitted to hospital with severe diarrhoea, a condition which causes up to 380 child deaths every year. A single retrovirus was identified as causing most of the cases, meaning steps could be taken to protect the children.

The real impact of donations

Caring when it matters most

There must have been some magic involved in Harry Potter, the cat, surviving being hit by a car.

His injuries were extensive, including damage to the nerves of his left leg and serious chest trauma causing air to leak from his lungs. He was put back together by a local vet, who drained the leaked air from his chest cavity.

Then two weeks later, Harry’s condition worsened.

The leg paralysis was continuing but the main thing was his difficulty breathing. He was taken to the University Veterinary Teaching Hospital Sydney (UVTHS) where a CT scan showed his windpipe was torn and leaking – Harry wasn’t getting in enough air.

Two operations later, Harry was well on the road to recovery.

The real element of magic in Harry’s survival story was the work of the UVTHS team and also the Animals in Need Fund that made Harry’s treatment possible. The fund is a way that University donors help animals in need get essential veterinary treatment.


Solving an impossible puzzle

A mysterious symptom of Parkinson’s disease is ‘freezing of gait’ (FOG), where patients suddenly feel that their feet are glued to the floor. It’s debilitating and frightening, and reported by more than 50% of people with advanced Parkinson’s.

Studying FOG has been difficult because to see what’s happening in the brain with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), patients must stay completely still inside the scanner. But FOG only comes on when patients are walking.

When Matthew Georgiades (B.Sc.(Adv) ’13), started working in neuroscience, he was drawn to the challenge of solving this problem through his supervisor, Professor Simon Lewis. The Professor’s solution was to have his patients wear virtual reality headset while lying still in an MRI machine.

Walking through a virtual landscape was enough to bring on an episode of FOG, giving researchers the pictures they needed. Georgiades now uses this virtual reality technology to record the brain activity of Parkinson’s patients as they have deep brain stimulation surgery.

Having this enquiring and determined young researcher working in neuroscience was never a given. Georgiades was only able to do his degree because of a scholarship. Supporting talented and hard-working young people in their studies, transforms lives and ultimately benefits everyone.

The right to a longer life

There is an alarming and shameful Australian statistic that made PhD student, Yu Qi Lee, want to come back to Australia to help change it: an Indigenous baby born today will have a lower life expectancy than a non-indigenous child, and is 40 times more likely to suffer severe kidney problems.

Thanks to a scholarship, Lee is now working with the University’s Baby1000 Study, which looks at the first 1,000 days of child development to identify parental behaviours, even pre-conception, that can be modified to improve the life-long health of their children.

Travelling monthly to Tamworth, Lee is gathering data from the Aboriginal community there, information that will be vital for improving health outcomes for all indigenous babies and changing that statistic. 

Michael Jeffrey

Michael Jeffrey

Opening doors

The odds were stacked against Michael Jeffrey making it to university.

Yes, he was gifted at maths and physics, a mentor for other students at his school, Dubbo College, and an active member of his broader community. 

But a few things stood in his way.  He had the dream of tertiary study, but no-one else in his family had ever gone to University, and none of his friends were interested. His parents also didn’t have the resources to support him in an expensive move to Sydney, especially with his younger brother still in school.

Michael was finally able to realise his tertiary study dream because of the University’s donor-supported E12 program. The program identifies gifted high school students who might miss out on further study. The students are encouraged to go further and given guidance and practical support as they do.

“I wouldn’t have gotten into my degree without E12,” says Michael. “I don’t know where I would have ended up otherwise.” Michael continues to look up at the stars as he studies to be an astrophysicist.

The most powerful way of supporting the vital work being done across the University, is by making a donation – especially because 100% of every donation goes to where it will have real impact.

How you can help

To talk about opportunities to support University researchers, programs and services, please contact our development team on +61 2 8627 8818.

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