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Graduates shaping the world: Alumni Awards winners 2020

13 May 2020
From freedom of press to the gift of life, Sydney celebrates its graduates who are making a better world
Meet the 2020 Alumni Award winners who are dedicated to helping others and driving positive change everywhere.

Honouring the exceptional achievements of our alumni, the University of Sydney’s annual Alumni Awards, acknowledge alumni at the height of their careers, and those just starting to make their mark.

The 2020 winners include researchers, clinicians, entrepreneurs, global leaders and artists. They make the impossible possible through IVF. Fight against repression and for journalistic freedom. Make childbirth safer for women in developing countries. And develop software to help detect COVID-19 in lungs.

Each of these remarkable people has chosen the path of leadership, innovation and compassion.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, sadly, the Awards cannot be the usual celebratory gathering in the University’s Great Hall. Instead we asked our winners and Graduate Medallists to reflect upon their time and influential figures at the University and share the best piece of advice they’ve ever received.

Alumni Achievement Awards

Dr Andrew Browning

Dr Andrew Browning AM

Alumni Award for Service to Humanity

Working in sub-Saharan Africa for 17 years, Dr Andrew Browning (MBBS '95) has helped over 10,000 women improve their maternal health. As a senior obstetric fistula surgeon he has particularly had a transformative effect on the lives of women with this debilitating, socially isolating condition; a condition repaired as a matter of course during baby delivery in developed countries but often goes untreated elsewhere. To help more women, Dr Browning has founded three hospitals across Ethiopia and Tanzania, with a fourth planned in South Sudan. He also teaches other surgeons to do this tricky procedure. All this is underpinned by his tireless fundraising through the Barbara May Foundation which he co-founded. Dr Browning currently consults for the United Nations and the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics. He began his career working under the late Dr Catherine Hamlin AC.

Best piece of advice you’ve received:

Find what is right and true, hold on to it and never let it go.

Professor Robert Jansen AM

President’s Award (awarded posthumously)

Dedicating his life to reproductive medicine and genetics, Professor Robert Jansen (BSc '68 MBBS '71 MD '87) founded Genea (originally Sydney IVF) in 1985. His pioneering research has given thousands of Australian couples the gift of parenthood. Professor Jansen was part of a team that developed an ultrasound technique for the safer, less intrusive collection of a woman’s ova. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2012 for his service to medical research and education and was the Clinical Professor of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Neonatology (Central Clinical School) at the Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney. Professor Jansen continued working despite a 2014 cancer diagnosis, and later that same year, gave an address at the International IVF Conference where he received a standing ovation. He sadly passed away on July 12, 2014.

Dr Akram Omeri OAM

Dr Akram Omeri OAM

Alumni Award for Cultural Contribution

During a health crisis, it can be vitally important that interactions with a patient reflect their cultural beliefs and practices; an approach called transcultural nursing. Dr Akram Omeri (PhD (Nursing) '96) was the first to establish this practice in Australia. Transcultural nursing aims to make nursing more accommodating to the innate needs of a patient, regardless of race, ethnicity, language, gender or sexual orientation. Dr Omeri was born in Iran and studied in Tehran, before taking her skills and hunger to learn around the world, ultimately deciding to stay in Australia. She was the first person outside North America to receive the Leininger Award for excellence in transcultural nursing and was awarded the Nursing Scholar Award by the Transcultural Nursing Society. Dr Omeri’s teaching and advocating for transcultural nursing has hugely enriched the nursing profession.

Best piece of advice you’ve received:

Take risks. That is the advice I gave myself from a very young age! It paid off.

Dr Hussain Nadim

Dr Hussain Nadim

Outstanding Achievements of Young Alumni Award

As the Head of the Nerve Centre - a data analytics firm in Pakistan, Dr Hussain Nadim (PhD (Research) '19) provides policy advisory to the Government of Pakistan on matters of security and peace. He received an Outstanding Service Award from the Government of Pakistan in 2015 and was recognised as a global leader in the 2016 Forbes Magazine ‘30 Under 30’. During his scholarship-funded PhD in government and international relations at the University of Sydney, he advised the Australian Federal Police and other governing bodies on how to tackle extremism. Dr Nadim completed his undergraduate degree at George Washington University, where he also received an Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award in 2016.

Most influential person during your time as a student:

Dr Sarah Phillips, my supervisor. She didn’t only guide me in my research work, but her training and mentoring allowed me to develop some core life skills including patience, ability to appreciate criticism, and most importantly, never giving up. She’s a wonderful person.

Professor Richard Scolyer

Professor Richard Scolyer

Alumni Award for International Achievement

One of the world’s most cited scholars in melanoma pathology, Professor Richard Scolyer (MD '06) is an international leader in melanoma research, clinical care, oncology and pathology. He is currently the Vice President of International Academy of Pathology Executive Council and the Clinical Professor of Pathology at Central Clinical School, the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Sydney. As well, he is ranked the world’s number one melanoma pathologist and number six melanoma expert in any field or discipline.

Best piece of advice you’ve received:

Aim for the clouds and you'll get to the treetops. If you aim for the treetops you won't get off the ground.

Alex Abrahams

Dr Alex Abrahams

Alumni Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Dr Alex Abrahams (BDS '82) transformed dental practice in Australia by establishing the largest branded dental network, Pacific Smiles, which has over 95 dental centres across the country and engages more than 600 dentists. A philanthropist and investor in start-ups for the greater good, he has provided: seed funding and mentorship for Group Homes Australia, an innovative dementia care model where residents live in suburban homes with 24-hour care; the blood testing group, Haemokinesis, which develops products for emergency and transfusion medicine; and established the Rosebrook Foundation to fund the arts and healthcare research in Australia. Through the Rosebrook Foundation, Dr Abrahams donated $3.6 million to the University of Sydney’s Chair of Lifespan Oral Health. Together with his wife, Sue, he also funds an Indigenous scholarship at the University.

Premesh Chandran

Premesh Chandran

Alumni Award for Professional Achievement

Premesh Chandran (MInternatStud '96) led a media revolution in Malaysia while advocating tirelessly for freedom of the press and human rights. He is the co-founder and CEO of the Malaysiakini website, once a small news service facing constant government harassment, but now the most popular news site in Malaysia. Chandran founded Malaysiakini in 2015 with an early story exposing the Malaysian government’s unlawful detention of six political activists, information usually hidden from the Malaysian people. Much more was to come. The fearless reporting of Malaysiakini during the last elections is widely credited with helping end Malaysia’s long history of being a one-party state. Chandran is also a TED fellow and speaks around the world about the importance of journalism and free media.

Best piece of advice you’ve received:

Build your ability to stay focused, your strength to persevere. This too will pass.

Graduate Medals

Dr Bronwyn Bancroft

Dr Bronwyn Bancroft

The Sister Alison Bush Medal for contribution to Indigenous community

Dr Bronwyn Bancroft (MSA '03 MVArts '07 PhD(Research) '19) is a passionate advocate for Indigenous voices across a variety of industries and sectors. She is a Director in Arts Law, a Director in Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME), and a member of the Commonwealth Bank Indigenous Advisory Council. A senior artist and proud Bundjalung Woman, her work is held in the collections of major institutions including the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Parliament House Art Collection, State Library of New South Wales, Australian Museum and Artbank. She is also the mother of Jack Manning-Bancroft, the founder of Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) and NSW Young Australian of the Year in 2010.

Dr Mo'ayyad E. Suleiman

Dr Mo'ayyad E. Suleiman

The John C Harsanyi Medal for innovation

Dr Mo'ayyad E. Suleiman (PhD(Research) '19) is the CTO of DetectED-X – an interactive program that improves the diagnostic efficacy of radiologists and other clinicians around the round. DetectED-X was awarded the Australasian Startup of the Year for Community and Social Good by StartCon in 2019. Most recently, he was a part of the team that adapted this software to help radiologists detect COVID-19 in the lungs (CovED). Dr Suleiman’s research focuses on radiation dose optimisation for screening mammography.

Most influential person during your time as a student:

The two most influential lecturers were Professor Patrick Brennan and Professor Mark McEntee, their achievements inspired me and their mentoring literally changed my life.

Annabelle Traves

Annabelle Traves

The Convocation Medal for undergraduate leadership

Annabelle Traves' (BMus(Perf) '19) University journey began at just 14, when she was part of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Rising Stars Program, where she was awarded a scholarship. Since then, she has been Concertmaster for the University’s Symphony Orchestra, Australian Youth Orchestra and Ensemble Apex; performed with a host of international musicians from Diana Krall to Bruce Springsteen; and established the Katrina Dawson Foundation Concert to help the Foundation to create opportunities for exceptional young women. Traves recently accepted a master’s position for solo violin performance at the Hochschule fur Musik und Tanz Cologne, in Germany.

Most influential person during your time as a student:

My mentor and teacher, Professor Alice Waten. Since the age of 14 she has been my teacher, spending countless hours with me working hard on my craft.

Nicholas Phipps

Nicholas Phipps

The Nigel C Barker Medal for sporting achievement

Nicholas Phipps (MIntBus '19) is a professional Rugby Union Player for the Wallabies and NSW Waratahs. He has played over 200 professional games – including winning a silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. He is dedicated to supporting the Sydney University Football Club, where he played a key role in securing a second Premiership for the Club. Phipps is an ambassador for the Royal Flying Doctors Service and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.

Most influential person during your time as a student:

David Mortimer. The godfather of Sydney University Rugby has always been a friendly, passionate, gentleman over my 13 years at the club.

Dr Michelle Barakat-Johnson

Dr Michelle Barakat-Johnson

The Rita and John Cornforth Medal for research excellence

Dr Michelle Barakat-Johnson (GradCertPainMgt '06 PhD(Research) '19) is a leading senior health professional in nursing practice, a lecturer and recognised national leader. Her doctoral research on hospital-acquired pressure injury (HAPI) used implementation science to guide a new approach and inform practice change which resulted in a 51.4% decrease in HAPI incidence and substantial organisational cost savings. Dr Barakat-Johnson’s research led to the formation of a state-wide pressure injury collaborative. She was awarded the prestigious Excellence in Innovation in Research award from the NSW Health Nursing and Midwifery sector in 2019.

Best piece of advice you’ve received:

Be caring and be careful because there are things in life that you just can’t get back: words, time and opportunity.

Dr Jessica Talbot

The Edmund Barton Medal for postgraduate leadership

A recipient of an Australian Government Endeavour Research Fellowship, Dr Jessica Talbot (BSc(Vet) '12 BVSc '13 PhD (Research) '19) pursued collaborative research on fungal diseases and antifungal resistance at the world-renowned Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute in the Netherlands. During her PhD studies, she volunteered at the University of Sydney Veterinary Teaching Hospital to establish and provide pop-up veterinary clinic services for disadvantaged people and their pets through BaptistCare HopeStreet. She also established the Greenway Housing Commission Community-Vet-to-Pet Care Program.

Best piece of advice you’ve received:

Health and well-being must come first. I find this particularly poignant in our current circumstances, as the world shifts to try and achieve this.


Do you know a Sydney alumni who deserves to be recognised? Nominations are now open for the 2021 University of Sydney Alumni Awards.

Alumni stories