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About Barry Firkin Oration Award

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Who Was Barry Firkin?

Barry Firkin was born in Newcastle, New South Wales in 1930. He studied Medicine at the University of Sydney and graduated with honours in 1954. Throughout his undergraduate years he developed a strong interest in both medical research and the history of Medicine which he maintained throughout his life. In 1958, Barry went to St Louis, Mo, USA where he joined Carl Moore and his team at Washington University. The experience at Washington University influenced Barry throughout his academic life. His interest in the scientific foundation of Haematology was born and set his life course. He became a strong advocate of the notion that clinical research started with the identification of the problem at the bedside, followed by carefully designed experiments in the laboratory to solve the questions and finally returning back to the patient with the answers. This to him was completing the loop and the dream of any clinical investigator. He returned to Sydney in 1961, to head the Clinical Research Department at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. It is there that he made his first major scientific breakthrough describing different enzyme patterns in patients with orotic aciduria.

His clinical research interest is very well exemplified by his performance of the first successful bone marrow transplant in the world on a patient with aplastic anaemia who had a twin sister. The twins are still alive to date and both enjoy good health. Inspired by the organization of the young clinical investigators in the USA, Barry set-up a similar model in Australia. This organization, The Australian Society for Medical Research has grown to become the strongest political force in Medical Research in Australia.

In 1969, Barry Firkin accepted the position of Foundation Professor of Medicine at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Victoria. Soon after moving to his new position, he made his most significant contribution to haematology when he discovered that Ristocetin caused platelet clumping in a von Willebrand factor dependent manner. This was critical to our understanding of the biology and biochemistry of von Willebrand factor. This observation facilitated the development of an assay for von Willebrand factor (the Ristocetin cofactor assay) that we continue to use today. Over the ensuing 20 years, Barry continued to build Haematology in Australia, and at the same time maintained strong links with the International haematology scene. He played key roles in the activities of the International Society of Haemostasis and Thrombosis as well as the International Society of Haematology. He was Councilor to the International Society of Haematology and a Senior Member of the Scientific Advisory Council of the International Society of Haemostasis and Thrombosis.

Barry Firkin was an inspiration to many Australian Haematologists and Physicians. He is regarded as a leader and the father of Modern Australian haematology. Barry passed away in 2001, and we recognise his immense contributions by an annual oration delivered by an eminent haematologist chosen by the THANZ Council.

The Barry Firkin Oration Award 2014

Auckland artist, John Reynolds, works across a variety of mediums from painting and printmaking to site-specific wall drawings and environmental installations with native species. His work typically toys with texts, lists, terminologies and word play. A signature feature of his practice is the deployment of handwritten phrases and diagrammatic imagery, drawn with metallic silver paint markers on canvas. By contrast his more formally-driven, and painterly works provide a lush pictorial abuttal to the apparent austerities of this emphasis on text.

The two oil pastel on paper works comprising the Barry Firkin award are typical of this interplay between the pleasures of typography and text, balanced here with a looping drawn motif which ambiguously summons images of circulation, void and continuum.

The Barry Firkin Oration Award 2004-2013

Nick Mount is one of Australia’s pre-eminent glass artists. He is recognized for his commissions, teaching and exhibitions in Australia, Europe, South America, the United States and Japan and his work is represented in many major public and private collections.

Nick’s idea was to create a heavy walled glass tube with a ‘flash’ of red glass on the inside of the tube. The tubular form refers to the nature of Professor Firkin’s work and the nature of the glass itself while the ends of the tube were cut and polished to reflect the precision of the sciences. The curving, overlapping shape of the bent tube is a cradling and nurturing form which describes Professor Firkin’s care for his work, peers and patients. Each piece will be individually created without the use of moulds or tools and will therefore be unique in its shape and size.

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