Tributes paid to pioneer professor of Australian dermatology


Tributes have been paid to pioneer dermatologist Professor Ross Barnetson, formerly of the University of Sydney, who died on the 1st October 2021.

Professor Barnetson studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and worked in Cyprus, Malaysia, Ethiopia and Edinburgh before taking up the first Chair of Dermatology in Australia at Sydney University, in 1988.

He built up the dermatology clinical department at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and also set up dermatology laboratory research in conjunction with immunologist Professor Gary Halliday, with a focus on sunburn and skin cancer. Professor Barnetson’s group also led research into regressions of skin cancers and the immune mechanisms underlying this such as the action of CD4+ T cells against tumour cells.

Professor Barnetson was also the founder of the Australasian Society for Dermatology Research, of which he was president from 2004- 2006.

According to the Society, the laboratory set up by Prof Barnetson made landmark findings such as showing that UVA was as important as UVB in the development of skin cancer and thus sunscreens are needed to protect effectively against UVA as well as UVB.

It notes that he was also responsible for the Dermatology arm of the Pacific Islands Project, run by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and personally visited Samoa, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tuvalu to treat patients with skin diseases, and teaching the local medical and nursing staff.

“During his 18 years as Professor of Dermatology he was co-author of 100 papers, and by the time he retired he had 30 full time research staff working with him,” it said.

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