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December 2008 Issue
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South Australian of the Year Awards 2008

University of Adelaide staff and students took out four of the 10 awards at the prestigious South Australian of the Year Awards ceremony, held at the Hyatt Regency Adelaide on Thursday 20 November.



Young South Australian of the Year

The world's most successful paralympian at Beijing, University of Adelaide student Matthew Cowdrey OAM, has been named 2008 Young South Australian of the Year.

Cowdrey, 19, who is studying Media and Law at the University, accepted the award from his Excellency the Governor, Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce, at a black-tie ceremony.

On the same night Cowdrey was named best male athlete by the South Australian Sports Institute.

Cowdrey captained Australia at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, winning eight medals including five gold, world record-breaking swims and was the team's flag bearer at the closing ceremony.

The second-year university student was born with a congenital amputation of his left arm below the elbow and yet in all aspects of life he has overcome his disability to achieve great things.

An outstanding athlete, Cowdrey has achieved international status, winning a host of medals. In his career to date he has broken 72 world records, 127 Australian records and 180 Australian age records.

Last year he was named International Male Disabled Swimmer of the Year and, despite his congenital amputation, also achieved an able-body qualifying time for the 2007 Telstra Australia National Championships.

Cowdrey has also been named as a finalist for the 2009 Young Australian of the Year, to be announced on January 25 next year.



Environment Award

The University of Adelaide's most cited researcher in the media, water policy expert Professor Mike Young, has won the 2008 Environment Award for South Australia.

Professor Young has used his role as Research Chair of Water and Economics Management at the University to significantly raise public awareness of Australia's most precious liquid asset.

One of the leading water policy researchers in the country, Professor Young has proposed a template for the restoration of the Murray Darling Basin and a framework for restructuring water licences.

As a founding member of the influential Wentworth Group and winner of the 2005 Land & Water Eureka Prize for Water Research, he has used his influence to help shape State and Federal policies on water.

In the past 12 months Professor Young has co-produced a number of water policy proposals, most notably the idea for an Independent Murray Darling Basin Authority.

His report on future-proofing the Basin, with colleague Jim McColl, outlines a suite of institutional changes to fix Australia's water allocation and investment problems.

The Sunday Mail recently named Professor Young as one of South Australia's 50 most powerful people.

In accepting the award, Professor Young said for South Australia to be great, it must have a "mighty River Murray and a healthy Coorong".

"We are all living on a knife edge but I am confident we can fix the River Murray's problems and establish a reputation as the water management capital of the world."



Health Award

Respiratory medical specialist Professor Dick Ruffin AM has taken out the SA Great Award in the field of Health.

Professor Ruffin is a Professor of Medicine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Deputy Head of Medicine at the University of Adelaide. He has worked extensively in the area of respiratory medicine, with a particular focus on asthma and chronic disease, and has secured countless grants to further research in respiratory conditions.

Professor Ruffin has also contributed to improvements to the training of junior doctors in South Australia though his chairmanship of the Post Graduate Medical Council of SA. These improvements´┐Żhave produced´┐Żlasting benefits for the State, according to SA Health Minister John Hill.

"His work has helped many South Australians over the years, and he has shown a strong commitment to providing the best health care to the community through the public health system," Mr Hill said.

Professor Ruffin is on the Boards of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Research Foundation and the Asthma Foundation of South Australia and also works with the National Health and Medical Research Council.

In 2005 he was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to teaching and research in respiratory medicine.

"This award recognises that teaching, training and research are integral to the future, safety and quality of patient care," Professor Ruffin said.

"The most satisfying parts of my work are seeing students and junior doctors develop skills in patient care and basic research," he added.



Science Award

Research scientist Professor John Hopwood, an affiliate professor with the University's Discipline of Paediatrics, has won the Science Award for his life-long work into finding a cure for genetic disorders that affect children.

Professor Hopwood is Head of the Lysosomal Diseases Research Unit based at the Women's and Children's Hospital and a scientist of worldwide acclaim.

He has spent the last 30 years trying to crack the secrets of a group of inherited lysosomal diseases which severely affect the longevity and quality of a child's life.

Professor Hopwood heads a group of more than 440 researchers at Adelaide's Women's and Children's Hospital, focusing on the diagnosis and treatment of lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs).

Parents of a child born with a LSD can expect to see a healthy baby at birth, but as they grow older will begin to notice problems such as developmental delay, bone deformities, heart and breathing difficulties and behavioural problems. Severely affected children die by their mid-teens.

Professor Hopwood's team has developed a novel program to enable newborn screening for LSDs, believed to affect 1:1000 births. His unit has also achieved world-first treatments for two lysosomal storage diseases that have improved clinical outcomes for patients worldwide.

"This has been a fantastic journey. My passion, which has driven me for my entire career, has been to see LSD patients effectively treated," Professor Hopwood said.

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Matt Cowdrey at the Adelaide Aquatic Centre
Photo by Calum Robertson, courtesy of Messenger Community Newspapers

Matt Cowdrey at the Adelaide Aquatic Centre
Photo by Calum Robertson, courtesy of Messenger Community Newspapers

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Matt Cowdrey OAM

Matt Cowdrey OAM
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Professor Mike Young

Professor Mike Young
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Professor Dick Ruffin

Professor Dick Ruffin
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Professor John Hopwood

Professor John Hopwood
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