From a traditional Chinese medicine faculty in Hong Kong, to the football World Cup in South Africa and the law courts in Cambodia, you'll find a University of Adelaide alumnus in almost every corner of the world. Lumen profiles three outstanding alumni who cross the boundaries of culture, country and comfort in the quest to make a meaningful contribution to the world around them.
Herbal hunt for cancer cure
Bachelor of Science (Hons) 2004
Could the ancient remedies of traditional Chinese medicine hold the key to solving medical mysteries such as cancer? Bachelor of Sciences graduate and PhD candidate Michelle Lee has returned to her ancestral home, Hong Kong, to find out.
In the final year of her PhD at the University of Adelaide, Michelle won a Prime Minister's Australia Asia Endeavour Award - the Asian equivalent of a Rhodes Scholarship - allowing her to undertake postdoctoral research at an Asian university for one year.
Not only does this award provide a generous stipend, but Michelle also receives support and resources for living overseas.
"I feel very privileged to be chosen to represent Australia in my given field," Michelle said. "The transition from home has been very smooth, thanks to all the support this award has given - and is still providing."
Michelle's research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong involves isolating active ingredients and determining how these can be applied in the treatment of cancers, in particular bone cancer.
Although the research is still in its early stages, Michelle and her team are seeing some promising results.
"Growing up in a very traditional Chinese family, I was exposed to many different herbal remedies to treat common ailments, so I've always had an interest in looking into the principles of traditional Chinese medicines and finding out what they really are, and why they work," Michelle said.
"A common misconception about traditional Chinese medicine is that it is only about plants and herbal remedies, when really, it encompasses the body as a whole and looks at treating a particular ailment for an individual in a full and holistic manner.
"I am hoping that my time in Hong Kong will allow me to gain an understanding of ancient therapies which will hopefully provide further knowledge and recognition of the importance of these traditional principles in the treatment of various diseases."
Although Michelle was born in Australia, her family originally hails from Hong Kong.
"I had visited many times before on holidays, though living here is completely different! However, the transition was smooth and I feel like I've settled in quite well, and being bilingual helps!
"Receiving this award has given me the opportunity to be exposed to a beautiful culture and way of life, surrounded by many influential people, as well as attending career-advancing seminars and workshops. I am sure that these opportunities will extend far beyond my award journey," Michelle said.
Story Connie Dutton
Healthy approach to World Cup
DR STEPHANIE DAVIS
Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery 2004
Not all of the action at this year's football World Cup in South Africa took place on the pitch.
For World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist Dr Stephanie Davis, who spent four months in the country before and during the tournament, the focus was public health.
Dr Davis was part of the WHO team who travelled to South Africa at the request of its health officials to help them prepare for any public health issues that could have arisen.
"I was there for three months before the World Cup began, and stayed for the tournament. My job involved helping to set up the disease surveillance system and also teaching South African health officials about managing communicable disease outbreaks during mass gatherings," Dr Davis said.
"Mass gatherings are of particular interest to WHO, because having lots of people from different places, with different bugs, all together in close proximity at the one time, means there is an increased risk of communicable diseases."
After graduating in Medicine in 2004, Dr Davis worked primarily in Indigenous health across Australia's north and completed a Master of Applied Epidemiology at the Australian National University in 2009. She was then offered a job as an epidemiologist at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
"My department is mainly interested in looking at acute communicable disease events, such as disease outbreaks and new or emerging infectious diseases," she said.
"We look at data from different sources to try to detect any major communicable disease events early, and then we liaise with our colleagues based in different places around the world to see if there is any action that needs to be taken by WHO."
Dr Davis described her World Cup experience as both hard work and fantastic fun.
"About 95% of the locals were wearing Bafana Bafana T-shirts, waving South African flags and blowing vuvuzuelas all day and all night," she said.
"There were loads of international visitors all wearing their national colours and singing their national songs in the streets, which added to the atmosphere.
"On a professional level it was also great, as I travelled to many different places in South Africa, meeting and working with some really fantastic people who were committed to having a healthy country and to ensuring South Africa hosted a successful World Cup.
"One of the best things for me was the realisation that doing this work for the World Cup will have long-term benefits for the South African public health system."
Story Ben Osborne
Bringing justice to Cambodia
Bachelor of Laws, 1994
Every day, Bill Smith is reminded of his good fortune in being raised and educated in Australia.
This thought often runs through his mind as he stands before a packed Cambodian court, using all his legal nous to prosecute some of the world's most notorious war criminals.
As Deputy Co-Prosecutor at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Mr Smith has just wrapped up the trial of Kaing Guek Eau, better known as Comrade Duch, the prison officer who confessed to torturing more than 12,000 people before they were sent to the killing fields of Cambodia for execution.
It took 10 years and $100 million to bring Comrade Duch to trial.
Mr Smith, a University of Adelaide law graduate, led the prosecution of 67-year-old Duch, who has been sentenced to 30 years in jail for his crimes (of which he has already served 11 years).
Although Duch will be 86 when he is due for release, Mr Smith and his team are appealing the decision, arguing for a life sentence.
"Comrade Duch was a willing participant in the genocide of thousands of Cambodians. These calculated and cruel killings on such a massive scale require the maximum punishment to deter others," Mr Smith said.
The former Adelaide police prosecutor and criminal defence lawyer will now turn his attention to the prosecution of the four most senior surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime: Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith.
"We are alleging these four were among the main architects and prime movers of the Khmer Rouge revolution in Cambodia in the late 1970s, whose criminal policies led to the death of up to 2.2 million people - half by direct execution.
"The other half died as a result of policies that caused starvation, overwork and disease."
Cambodia has been home to Mr Smith since 2006. Prior to taking this brief, he worked as a prosecutor in The Hague for 11 years at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and spent six months in East Timor in 2000 as a human rights officer.
He started university a little later than his peers, initially working in the hotel industry and then as a police officer in Adelaide before enrolling in a law degree.
After graduating in 1994, Mr Smith worked as a criminal defence lawyer before heading overseas.
"My experience working overseas has really made me appreciate our education system in Australia," he said. "It has allowed me to change the course of my career and given me 15 incredibly rewarding years so far."
Story Candy Gibson
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