Professor Melvyn Korman leaves lasting legacy on profession

26 Jun 2024

Leading gastroenterologist Professor Melvyn Korman, who helped shape practice and the development of revolutionary drugs, has died aged 81.

Only last year, Professor Korman was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for “significant service to gastroenterological and hepatological medicine”, which recognised more than five decades of work in the field.

A registrar at Melbourne’s Prince Henry’s Hospital in 1969, Professor Korman’s interest in gastroenterology was sparked by supervisor and later lifelong friend Associate Professor Jack Hansky, who approached him to join a research project.

This involved retrospectively studying the mortality associated with upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage at Prince Henry’s Hospital between 1951 and 1960, with findings revealing an unacceptably high mortality rate of about 15%.

The pioneering doctors’ data and advocacy led to the establishment of the haematemesis and melaena unit in 1972 with a defined management policy.

In 1978, Professor Korman co-authored a landmark paper in the British Medical Journal [link here], which captured audit results from the unit’s first six years, demonstrating that the mortality rate had significantly reduced to less than 4%.

According to Monash Health, many European countries adopted the methodology.

During this time, Professor Korman was appointed the first director of gastroenterology at Prince Henry’s and continued in the role when the unit transferred to Monash Health in 1990, remaining as director until 2005.

Professor Korman became an international leader in the area of gastrointestinal hormones and was also involved in key reforms to patient care, particularly the development of acid-lowering drugs and the promotion of colorectal cancer prevention.

Other achievements included becoming a Mayo Research Fellow at the Mayo Clinic in the US (1973-1974) and holding multiple high-level positions, including seven years on the GESA council and on numerous international advisory boards.

Professor Korman also served on several journal editorial boards, as a board member and treasurer of the Gut Foundation of Australia and as director of the Australasian Gastro Intestinal Research Foundation. He was named Emeritus Director of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Monash Health in 2007.

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