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Prof. John Funder retiring as PWF Board Director

December 13, 2023 Announcement

“It’s been a terrific journey,” says Professor John Funder, of his 28 years as Board Director at the Passe & Williams Foundation. “The stature of ENT and associated disciplines has really gone ahead in leaps and bounds as a result of the Foundation.”

An internationally renowned cardiovascular endocrinologist, Companion of the Order of Australia, and part-time winemaker, John – affectionately known as “Funder” – had been advising the Foundation’s initial Trustees Colin Richards and Peter Freeman on its activities, when they asked him to officially join as a Board Director in 1995.

John recalls his first knowledge of the Foundation was seeing colleague Colin Richards announced as one of its Trustees. John and Colin had worked together at Prince Henry’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, with both experiencing the difficulties of obtaining medical research funding. “It was published in (Melbourne newspaper) The Age that there had been a very significant amount of money put forward by the widow of Garnett Passe (Barbara Williams) and her subsequent husband (Rodney Williams), after he had died,” says John “so I sent a message to Colin saying ‘If there’s any way I can help, just sing out'”. And they did.

A substantial bequest for the sole promotion of one medical field was unusual, and not everyone had the best intentions for its use. Thankfully, and with John’s help, the Trustees set up an Award Suite that honoured Barbara’s wishes of supporting the best and the brightest in ENT. “It’s revolutionised ENT in Australia and New Zealand,” notes John “colleagues of mine have told me they wished there was an equivalent body for their field of work”.

John has always been an advocate for Foundation Awardees., reflecting that it’s been “fantastic” to watch them grow in their careers. John is particularly enthusiastic for the Senior Fellows, stating that “(they) are stars…outstanding people to support.” He is proud to have been part of the implementation of the Project Grant, which became the Conjoint Grant, aimed at bringing researchers and clinicians together on a single project.

“Supporting (ENT) research is totally important,” says John, an integral part of modern day medicine and surgery, though perhaps slightly unglamorous to the public eye. “People think of ENT as wax in the ear, or a runny nose, a sore throat,” he notes. With the more ‘exciting’ research fields receiving large sums of public funding, “(the Foundation) has been a wonderful thing for an underappreciated area of medicine.”

John leaves behind a fantastic legacy at the Foundation, including:

  • Being the driving force behind the Frontiers biennial conference.
  • Encouraging the appointment of women in senior roles (both within the Foundation, and with Awardees).
  • Engaging with Awardees to ensure they are given the support they need.
  • Bringing together research and clinical ENT professionals to achieve better results for patients.

His dedication and hard work as the Foundation’s longest-serving Board Member has set standards that he hopes to see surpassed as the years continue, and the ENT research landscape changes.

“It really has been terrific,” he says.

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