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Farewell and thanks to WEHI director

This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Spring ‘23
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L-R: The Hon Jaala Pulford, Dr Jim Whittle, Carrie Bickmore, Associate Professor Misty Jenkins, Professor Doug Hilton.

Through almost four decades of unwavering dedication to WEHI and 14 years as director, Professor Doug Hilton AO leaves a rich and lasting legacy.

Prof Hilton ushered in a new era for WEHI that embraces not only fundamental research and discovery but with accelerated effort around translation and commercialisation, strengthening links with other health, research, philanthropic and educational organisations.

His directorship was characterised by tackling complex health problems and by being unafraid to address important issues that have an impact well beyond the WEHI walls.

Major initiatives he championed included the establishment of the National Drug Discovery Centre, The Brain Cancer Centre and the Centre for Dynamic Imaging, as well as the Professor Lynn Corcoran Early Learning Centre – the first on-site childcare centre at an Australian independent medical research institute.

“After 14 years of exceptional leadership, the WEHI community is ready to build boldly upon Doug’s outstanding legacy, with confidence that the high standards, strong collaborative culture, quality and ethical integrity of the research on which WEHI has built its reputation over more than 100 years will continue well beyond his departure,” WEHI president Jane Hemstritch AO said.

L-R:Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler MP and Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney
With the Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese, Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler and Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney at WEHI in 2022.
Rally for Research, Melbourne - State Library of Victoria Professor Doug Hilton, Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall institute of Medical Research
A passionate advocate for science and medical research, Prof Hilton (pictured at the Rally for Research in 2011) was instrumental in leading the Discoveries Need Dollars campaign, which acted as a catalyst for the establishment of the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund. 
At the 2023 launch of WEHI’s third Reconciliation Action Plan, with First Nations artist Aimee McCartney (L). Artwork painted by Aimee McCartney is displayed in between the two individuals.
At the 2023 launch of WEHI’s third Reconciliation Action Plan, with First Nations artist Aimee McCartney. 
Children wearing construction costumes are turning the soil in the sandpit to mark the opening of the Early Learning Centre. Adults in attendance watching on.
The first sod turning ceremony for the Professor Lynn Corcoran Early Learning Centre. Operated by Froebel Australia, the ELC opened in 2018 with support from philanthropic donors, government, WEHI board, committee members and staff who helped make the vision a reality.   
Photo of philanthropist Pamela Galli with Doug Hilton in his office
With philanthropist and WEHI supporter Pamela Galli AO, from the Lorenzo and Pamela Galli Charitable Trust (2017). 
Professor Don Metcalf, Professor Doug Hilton and Professor Nick Nicola standing in front of shelves with journal covers
With mentors Professor Don Metcalf (left) and Professor Nicos Nicola (right), on his appointment as WEHI’s sixth director in 2009. Prof Metcalf, regarded as the “father of modern haematology”, is best known for his pioneering discovery of colony stimulating factors (CSFs), which have helped more than 20 million people worldwide. Prof Nicola is a blood cell biologist and Honorary Distinguished Research Fellow whose work in cytokine biology has spanned over 35 years.   
From left to right: Professor Suzanne Cory (past director), Sir Gustav Nossal (past director), Institute director Professor Doug Hilton and Elizabeth (Liz) Dexter, daughter of Sir Macfarlane Burnet cutting the Centenary Birthday Cake.
Cutting the Centenary Birthday Cake at WEHI’s 100-year celebrations in 2015, with Professor Suzanne Cory, Sir Gus Nossal and the late Elizabeth (Liz) Dexter, daughter of Sir Macfarlane Burnet. 
Professor Doug Hilton (left) with then federal health minister Greg Hunt
With then-Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt in 2019 announcing funding for the National Drug Discovery Centre, established to bridge a vital gap in Australia’s drug discovery pipeline. 
Group photo of Professor Doug Hilton with visiting students from Asian universities
With the first cohort of students in the International Student Program in Research Experience (InSPIRE), which welcomes undergraduate students to Melbourne from 12 partner universities across Asia for fully-funded, 10-week internships (2016). 
From left to right: then Premier of Victoria, Mr Ted Baillieu, Institute director Professor Doug Hilton and then Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing the Hon Catherine King, MP.
At the opening of the newly redeveloped Parkville campus in 2012, with then Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu, and then Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing Catherine King. 
Dr Doug Hilton examining culture plates.
A photo shoot marking Dr Doug Hilton’s appointment as director of the CRC-CGF (Cooperative Research Centres – Cellular Growth Factors) in 1997.   
WEHI Wombats
With the WEHI Wombats footy team in 2017, competing against other Parkville research institutes for the illustrious Medical Research Cup. 
L-R Professor Doug Hilton AO and Eve Mahllab
With philanthropist and WEHI supporter Eve Mahlab AO at Celebrating Discoverers in 2019. 
Board president Jane Hemstritch and Institute director Professor Doug Hilton
With Jane Hemstritch AO, WEHI board member since 2013 and president since 2019. 
Professor Doug Hilton with the Burnet Prize in 1997
Dr Doug Hilton was the winner of the 1997 Burnet Prize – awarded each year for outstanding research by a young WEHI investigator – for his discovery of a new class of molecules which act as brakes once white blood cells have been activated.  
Professor Doug Hilton with first place getters Still images First place: Interweb of the mind by Melody Leong (left) Moving images First place: Thymic coral reef by Kelin Zhao (right)
With PhD students and 2022 Art of Science winners, Melody Leong (left) and Kelin Zhao (right). 

Header image: At the launch of The Brain Cancer Centre, which was founded by Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer and established in partnership with WEHI with support from the Victorian Government (2021). 

First published on 29 August 2023
This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Spring ‘23
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