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Philanthropy develops career of leading COVID-19 expert

In 2008, The Alfred established a Chair in Infectious Disease Epidemiology, thanks to generous funding from the James and Elsie Borrowman Trust. This distinguished position was a major career development milestone of one of Australia’s leading infectious diseases experts – Professor Allen Cheng.

Professor Cheng held the Chair position for three years from 2009-2012, publishing over 24 research papers and generating competitive research funding valued at over $3 million. In what would be a career defining moment, the day of Prof Cheng’s appointment, the H1N1/09 virus, known more commonly as swine flu, was declared a pandemic.

Professor Cheng said the opportunities provided by The Borrowman Trust were essential to career development in a field where research outcomes can often take many years.

‘A lot of early career researchers are funded by very short-term grants and it’s important to nurture scientists and academic clinicians so they can become independent and acquire their own funding down the track,’ Prof Cheng said.

‘If someone had said they were an expert in coronaviruses prior to SARS, or in retroviruses prior to HIV, we would have thought that’s a really niche area. However, we are now acutely aware of how important that knowledge can be; no knowledge is ever wasted.’

Aside from his role as Director of Infection Prevention and Healthcare Epidemiology at The Alfred, Prof Cheng also holds positions as President of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases (ASID) and as Victoria’s Acting Deputy Chief Health Officer where his expertise continues to contribute significantly to both the Federal and State governments’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Alfred helipad gets an upgrade

The Alfred’s helipad provides a lifesaving service for all Victorians. For over 30 years it has received more than 10,000 patients requiring critical lifesaving care, including from the Bali bombings, the Longford gas explosion, Black Summer and Black Saturday bushfires and more recently the White Island volcano eruption in New Zealand.

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