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Professor Lawrie Powell is a graduate of the University of Queensland Medical School, Australia. After completing his early postgraduate training at the Royal Brisbane Hospital he won a Royal Australasian College of Physicians Scholarship to study at the Royal Free Hospital and the University of London, England, with Professor Sheila Sherlock.
In 1966 he returned to Australia to take up the position of Senior Lecturer in the Department of Medicine at the University of Queensland. Subsequent periods of study leave included further training at the Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
The University of Queensland awarded Professor Powell a personal Chair in 1975.
In collaboration with Professors June Halliday and Graham Cooksley, Professor Powell established an internationally recognized liver research group, which made significant contributions to the understanding of inherited liver disease and cirrhosis - especially hemochromatosis. The group was awarded an NHMRC program grant in 1982, which was renewed in each successive round. Finally it was incorporated into the QIMR block grant in 1998.
In 1990 Professor Powell was appointed Director of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. Over the past nine years the Institute has grown threefold in size and funding, and was awarded an NHMRC Block Grant in 1998.
Professor Powell was instrumental in the successful development and planning of the new Comprehensive Cancer Research Center, including the negotiations which attracted private donations and Government support for the project. The center is due for completion in 2002 at a cost of $64 million, and when fully operational will house almost 1,000 scientists and support staff.
Professor Powell has received numerous national and international awards in recognition of his research contributions. These include a Gold Medal from the Canadian Liver Foundation "for outstanding life time contributions to hepatology" and the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 1990. He was elected President of the International Association for the Study of the Liver (1986 to 1988) and elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in London in 1990. In 1991 he was also awarded the Marcel Simon Prize in recognition of scientific achievements in the field of genetic iron overload diseases, awarded by the International Hemochromatosis Research Foundation and the Société Francaise de Hémochromatose.
Professor Powell has been invited to give numerous named orations including the 1998 Hans Popper Oration to the International Association for the Study of the Liver. The University of Queensland awarded Professor Powell the Alumnus of the Year for 1999. He was also awarded the Premier's Millennium Award for Excellence in Health for 2000.
- What made you decide to become a hepatologist?
- A family of hemochromatosis affecting four women, all non-drinkers fascinated me. The literature at that time stated that it was due to alcoholism and affected almost exclusively men. This led to original research and a lifelong professional interest in the subject, including relevant training in London, Boston, and Copenhagen.
- Who was the teacher you admired the most?
- Dame Sheila Sherlock.
- Which research paper influenced you the most?
- The papers published by Richard Macdonald, which claimed to show that the disease hemochromatosis was simply a variant of alcoholic cirrhosis. These posed a significant challenge!
- What is the most important fact that you have discovered?
- That the hemochromatosis gene is placed telomeric of HLA-A and not centromeric, as claimed by the literature.
- What is the biggest mistake that you have made?
- Buying shares.
- What is your unfulfilled ambition?
- To learn a musical instrument.
- What is your greatest regret?
- "Can't live a thousand lives" (Beethoven).
- How do you relax?
- Classical music, bush walking, grandchildren (including triplets!).
- What is your favorite sport?
- Cricket, Jogging.
- What is your best place in the world?
- Springbrook in the Hinterland of the Gold Coast, Queensland.
- What is your favorite film?
- "As Good as it Gets".
- What car do you drive?
- Holden (Australian General Motors).
- What is your best electronic 'toy'?
- IBM Laptop and Palm V.
- What book are you reading at the moment?
- "Beethoven's Hair".
- Why did you get in involved in GastroHep.com?
- Roy Pounder twisted my arm.