SA Scientist of the year to lead SAHMRI

02 Jun 2023
SA Scientist of the year to lead SAHMRI

SAHMRI is proud to announce that Professor Maria Makrides has been appointed to lead the institute as its next Executive Director. 

Professor Makrides will take over from the institute’s inaugural ED Professor Steve Wesselingh later this year, having been the leader of the SAHMRI Women and Kids Theme for the past decade and serving as the institute’s Deputy Director since 2018.

“I am deeply honoured by this appointment and feel a great sense of responsibility to steer South Australia’s sole independent health and medical research institute as we continue to innovate in pursuit of ways to improve health and wellbeing for everyone,” she said. 

Professor Makrides is an internationally acclaimed clinical nutritionist who has earned a range of distinctions including her election as a Fellow of both the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science. In 2022 she was named South Australia’s Scientist of the Year. 

She succeeds SAHMRI’s inaugural Executive Director, Professor Steve Wesselingh, who announced in 2020 that his current term with SAHMRI would be his last. 

“I have had the privilege of admiring Maria’s outstanding talents as a researcher and a leader while we’ve worked in partnership over the past 10 years,” Professor Wesselingh said.

“I have no doubt that Maria is the perfect person to capitalise on the opportunities before SAHMRI, to continue forging its reputation as an institute of global renown.” 

The Chair of SAHMRI’s Board, the Hon. Hieu Van Le AC, congratulated Professor Makrides, saying she will bring ideas, experience and skills that will build on Professor Wesselingh’s legacy. 

“The search for our next Executive Director, alongside international recruitment specialists Odgers Berndtson, began in earnest in the latter stages of last year,” he said. “We were extremely impressed by the calibre of candidates who applied from across Australia and beyond.

“After an exhaustive process, it was the unanimous view of the selection panel and our Board that Maria has all of the qualities essential to continue SAHMRI’s evolution.

“Her breadth of research and leadership experience is highlighted by the work she has guided that is delivering the world-first ‘test-and-treat’ program that’s identifying women with low omega-3 status who require supplementation to reduce their risk of preterm birth. 

She also brings to the role invaluable knowledge of the local, national and international research landscape and a diverse network of strong professional relationships.”

Professor Wesselingh was appointed as SAHMRI’s inaugural ED in October 2011. Two years later, the institute’s research programs began in earnest following the opening of its iconic ‘Cheesegrater’ headquarters in what is now the Adelaide BioMed City precinct.

“The physical transformation of SAHMRI and the precinct in that time is truly remarkable,” Mr Le said.

“What is even more remarkable however is the variety of life-changing research that has flourished under Steve’s guidance in that time. Steve’s eminence as a researcher is unquestioned. 

We at SAHMRI have been fortunate to reap the benefit of his outstanding leadership and his innate ability to foster fruitful partnerships between individuals and institutions.”

In less than 10 years since opening its doors, SAHMRI has delivered incredible impact across the broad range of its research areas. 

SAHMRI was at the forefront of developing the ground-breaking South Australian Aboriginal Health Research Accord, is internationally recognised as a leader in leukaemia research and has a series of cardiac research programs that are highly integrated with clinical care to improve outcomes for people with heart conditions.

The institute is also a major partner in the collaboration that is delivering Australia’s first cancer-fighting proton therapy centre, to be housed in the building that is under construction adjacent to SAHMRI’s Cheesegrater.

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