Professor Emeritus Graeme Bruce Ryan

AC 1994, MD, BS, PhD (Melb), FRCPA, FRACP

Head, Melbourne Medical School, and Dean, Faculty of Medicine, then Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, and then Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences from 1986 to 1995

Anatomist, Pathologist, Educator and Dean

Graeme Bruce Ryan graduated in medicine from the University of Melbourne in 1961. Following residency training at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, he embarked on further training in pathology completing a PhD in the University Department of Pathology before leaving in 1968 for eight years overseas. During this period, he worked for a year at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, for four years at the University of Geneva in Switzerland and three years at the Harvard Medical School in Boston.

He returned to Australia to head a newly established National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funded renal research unit in the University’s Department of Pathology in 1976 and he was appointed to a professorship in the Department of Anatomy in 1978, and Chair of that department in 1979.

In 1986, after a period of six years as Deputy Dean, Graeme Ryan succeeded David Penington as Medical Dean. That his leadership was characterised by a sense of security and unity of purpose, is a consummate achievement given the profound changes made to the Faculty during that period. Graeme Ryan’s calm executive manner steered the changes which saw firstly, in 1989, the Faculty of Medicine amalgamated with the Faculty of Dental Science, then its incorporation of two additional schools: Physiotherapy in 1991 and Behavioural Science in 1992, becoming the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences. This expansion of the Faculty was matched by an extensive series of Professor/Director appointments throughout the teaching hospitals. Concurrently, retaining his title as Professor of Anatomy and his position as a member of the Department, Professor Ryan continued his research activities into the causes and effects of kidney disease.

In addition to the outstanding leadership Professor Ryan gave to the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences he also made an exceptional contribution to the wider University. He was elected President of the Academic Board in 1989 and, with an appointment as Pro Vice-Chancellor, was involved in many major reviews of faculties and departments of the University.

Outside the University, Graeme Ryan served the NHMRC as a member of Council and on the Medical Research Committee. He also served on the advisory panel for a major external review of the NHMRC and on the boards of several medical research institutes, including the Howard Florey Institute, Mental Health Research Institute, The Murdoch Institute for Research into Birth Defects, St Vincent's Institute of Medical Research and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. He was Chair of the Committee of Deans of the Australasian Medical Schools, a member of the Zoological Board of Victoria and has been a Governor of the Ian Potter Foundation since 1987. His contributions to the community, particularly in the fields of medical research and medical education, were recognised by his appointment in 1994 as Companion of the Order of Australia.

On 26 October 1995 the Academic Board, in acknowledging his outstanding contributions to the Faculty and to the University, noted the following about Graeme’s personal style:

‘Graeme’s contribution to the University has been characterised by his selfless capacity for hard work, by his willingness to provide leadership and to take on formidable tasks and by his unfailing courtesy and patience. His willingness to listen to the views of all members of staff, regardless of their position, and to student representatives is one of the hallmarks of his various reviews of faculties and departments.

His department, his faculty, the Academic Board, the University and his professional discipline are indebted to Graeme Ryan for his outstanding contributions and for the dedication he has shown throughout his long association with the University of Melbourne.’