The Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation: 25 years on

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Barbara Hope Williams honoured the memory of her two husbands with the establishment of the Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation which became operational on 16 September 1991. The Trust Deed stipulated that the Foundation would be ‘dedicated in perpetuity exclusively for charitable, scientific and educational purposes in Australia and other countries of the specialty of otorhinolaryngology and related medical, surgical and paramedical fields’. Furthermore, it would be required to ‘promote, maintain and improve medical knowledge and education, and the highest possible standards of excellence in otorhinolaryngology’. The story of this remarkable woman and her benefaction was written by the first two Trustees, R. Peter Freeman and Colin S. Richards.1
The corpus of which is now over $93 million has had a significant and lasting impact on the specialty. It has been an investment in people and scientific research in the form of scholarships, fellowships and grants that now amount to over $55 million when funding was first introduced in 1993. In addition, it has supported the development of two University Chairs in the surgical specialty and a probability of several others in the very near future. Importantly, it has enabled trainees to pursue an academic bias early in their career, the outcome of which through the awarding of Academic Surgeon Scientist Scholarships has been 20 PhDs and eight Masters with more in progress. A recent article by Garrod et al. in this journal evaluating the Scholarship and Fellowship Programme of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons noted that no recipients of the College Foundation were in the specialty of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery.2
Clearly, the Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation has more than filled this apparent void.
Dean Beaumont OAM, a recently retired Trustee of 15 years, outlined in an article of this journal in 2013 the direction the Foundation had taken and would be changing into the future.3 He emphasized the importance of ‘interactive collaboration between professional scientists and clinicians, recognition by medical scientists that their true aim is the benefit of mankind and the realization by all clinicians that they depend on science to progress what they do’.
To follow on from this, the previously operative project grant, on offer since 2000 (86 awarded to a value of $18.5 million), was replaced by a conjoint grant in 2014. This award requires both clinician and scientist to work collaboratively on their field of interest. It has attracted increasing numbers of applicants (31 for 2017). A particular emphasis is placed upon emerging or established collaboration between the basic scientist/researcher and clinician as well as a high probability that the proposed research will lead towards an improvement in patient care, diagnosis and/or treatment. These grants, now worth $375 000 over 3 years, have funded 18 projects over a wide range of subspecialty areas embraced by the surgical community, with a further four to commence in 2017 – the total value of which now exceeds $6 million.
With the increasing number of surgeons supported by the Foundation having a strong research background and training, the Foundation Board has decided to introduce a clinical research grant for up to 2 years commencing in the near future. It is hoped that this will stimulate further interest in continuing scientific pursuits within the specialist surgical fraternity.
Although the major initiatives and objectives of the Foundation have been met through the various forms of competitive awards, the biennial Frontiers Conference entitled ‘The Art, Science and Future of Otorhinolaryngology’ again brings together both clinicians and basic researchers to present the scientific endeavours of the very disparate subspecialty areas of Otorhinolaryngology.
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