Like her sibling, Professor Justine Smith (PhD(Med) ’99) is a leader in her field. The Flinders University graduate and staff member is an internationally recognised expert in the causes, effects and treatment of uveitis - inflammation inside the eye. At Flinders, Professor Smith is a Research Strategic Professor in Eye and Vision Health and a Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor. She is also the Executive Vice-President of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the world’s largest eye and vision research organisation.
After studying her PhD at Flinders, Professor Smith met her husband Dr Binoy Appukuttan when they were both postdoctoral researchers at Oregon Health & Science University in the US. In response to the struggles and job losses students experienced due to COVID-19 restrictions, Professor Smith and Dr Appukuttan both generously donated to the Matthew Flinders Scholarship, which provides funding to students facing financial hardship.
"While doing our postdoctoral studies overseas, Binoy and I relied on scholarships to support ourselves. When we heard about the students who had no funds to fall back on during the restrictions, we understood what it would be like to have nothing - we really felt for them," says Professor Smith.
Dr Appukuttan also works at Flinders University, as a researcher and lecturer in Molecular Medical Science. His research has helped develop gene therapy products that are being trialled to treat blindness for some eye conditions. He hopes the support will help students focus on their studies and worry less about where their next meal is coming from.
"We want the students to become critical thinkers and independent people but in this current environment they are struggling to work and to study," says Dr Appukuttan. "It’s crucial to support our students during this time so they can complete their degree."
For over 20 years, Professors Spurrier and Smith’s mother, Dr Lesley Smith has generously donated to a range of programs at the University, including the Matthew Flinders Scholarship and Flinders University Museum of Art (FUMA).
Dr Smith trained as a pathologist and contributed substantially to the development of a national screening program for cervical cancer. She is a past president of the Australian Society of Cytology. Now retired, Dr Smith is often seen at FUMA where she has volunteered for more than 12 years.
"Each week I enjoy spending time in the museum, researching artists and adding information to the online database," says Dr Smith, who also shared her expertise on the University’s medical student intake panel this year.
Flinders are grateful for the significant contribution this family is making to advance medical research, and their important philanthropic support for students and the FUMA collection. The impacts of their generosity will be felt throughout the community for years to come.