Eric Osborne Oration

Queen’s was delighted to have Professor Frank Shann, a distinguished Wyvern of Queen’s, deliver this year’s Eric Osborne Oration. Frank was a resident of Queen’s from 1963-1968 while he studied medicine. He trained in adult medicine at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, and in paediatrics and intensive care at The Royal Children’s Hospital. To help pay his way through his education, Frank worked as a tram driver during the holidays.

In the early 1970’s, Frank served on the staff of Nairobi Hospital, in Kenya, and then spent quite a number of years working as the only paediatrician in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. While there, he and Greg Lawrence developed a new vaccine that eradicated pigbel, a local type of pneumonia that was the commonest cause of death in highlands children. Also while in Papua New Guinea, Frank spent many months in hospital himself after he suffered cardiac arrest from being stabbed by a psychotic patient.
Upon recovery, Frank kept working full steam ahead. He later returned to Melbourne and served as director of intensive care at the Royal Children’s Hospital for 20 years. Currently, Frank spends much of his time travelling and conducting randomized trials of live vaccines that reduce childhood deaths from diseases like pneumonia and sepsis. Frank has received The Eric Susman Prize for medical research and the first Howard Williams Medal for paediatrics. He is a member of the International Advisory Board of The Lancet, and a Member of the Order of Australia.
The title of Professor Shann’s oration was “Humanity’s Spectacular Progress: Education, Trade, and Democracy.” He spoke of how society often focuses on the medical advancements still needed, without also continuing to recognize and be amazed by the history of the progression of medicine thus far. He illustrated some of this progress with many inspiring stories from his own experiences in the medical field.

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