Paediatric oncologist Dr Richard Cohn has been named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), recognising more than two decades of work in children’s cancer units in Sydney.
Originally from South Africa, Dr Cohn has been head of clinical oncology at the Kids Cancer Centre at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, where he has worked since migrating to Australia 26 years ago.
In that time, he has become one the country’s leading experts in paediatric cancer survivorship, founding a research unit to cover the psycho-social and behaviour aspects of the disease in 2001.
He says he has also tried to focus on keeping families of paediatric cancer patients involved as much as possible.
“The disease is very demanding, not only on the child but on the whole family and I include here the siblings and the grandparents,” he says.
“There is financial toxicity, there is the effects on siblings who 20 years later say they felt abandoned while the parents were involved in the care of a child with cancer.
“So we spend a lot of time looking at the demands on the family and try to give them the tools to get the job done and get through it.”
Dr Cohn has also held a position of conjoint professor at the University of NSW School of Women’s and Children’s Health since 2015.
Now in his 60s, he says feels as though the specialty has just entered a “particularly exciting period”, thanks to drug advances in recent years.
“We have been through a period where we didn’t have a lot of new drugs, but we became more adept at using higher doses of the existing drugs and getting better results, but that was something of a blunderbuss approach” he says.
“Today we have all the new biologicals and immunotherapy which are just incredible.”
Also named in the honours list was Professor Clare Scott, a consultant oncologist and chair of gynaecological oncology at the University of Melbourne.
Professor Scott was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for “significant service to gynaecological oncology”.
Besides her clinical roles at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Royal Melbourne and Royal Women’s Hospitals, she was also recognised for her research work, including as chief investigator on 12 NHMRC-funded projects since 1995.
Professor Scott has also held roles with Cancer Council Victoria, COSA, the Walter Hall Institute of Medical Research, Cancer Australia and the Australia and New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group (ANZGOG).
Professor David Watkins, currently a Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Manitoba in Canada, was granted a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
Dr David Speakman, the chief medical officer at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, received an OAM for “service to medicine, particularly cancer treatment”.
Another Peter Mac doctor, orthopaedic and sarcoma surgeon Professor Peter Choong, received an AO.