Professor Graeme Young AM had developed expertise in gastroenterology early in his career, attracted by the challenge of using both his mind and his hands in concert to solve difficult problems relating to stomach and bowel.
He played a critical role in establishing the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in 2004, using behavioural psychology to identify ways to encourage more people to take bowel cancer tests. His research demonstrated the effectiveness of saving lives through the screening program, making Australia a world leader in the area.
Drawing on insights from the success of the program, Professor Young set up the Centre for Innovation in Cancer – co-located with the Flinders Medical Centre – providing opportunities for researchers to interact with clinicians and patients.
“Having a research project can help improve patient outcomes and by having patients nearby, researchers can get new ideas. We are working to get cross-fertilisation of outcomes so that everyone with different disciplines and skills is working together – that’s how you generate the best solutions for cancer.”
His recent focus has moved to saving young lives needlessly lost to diarrhoea and malnutrition in developing countries like Bangladesh, India, Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa.
“We have made some real advances, conducting some quite sophisticated research projects with our partners way out in the back blocks of these countries,” Professor Young said.
“Far too many children and infants are still dying needlessly. A few dollars will save them – it doesn’t need to happen. It’s extraordinary how much impact we can have when we focus on taking our research ideas through to practice.”