Returning Oxford don begins as head of Medicine at UNSW

Eminent immunologist and HIV researcher Professor Rodney Phillips begins today as Dean of Medicine at UNSW, returning home after nearly 40 years abroad.

professor rodney phillips

Professor Rodney Phillips. Photo: Miles Standish

Eminent immunologist and HIV researcher Professor Rodney Phillips begins today as Dean of Medicine at UNSW, returning home to take up the role after nearly 40 years abroad.

A native Australian and graduate of the University of Melbourne, Professor Phillips is best known for describing for the first time how the HIV virus evades the body’s immune defences.

He has had a distinguished career as a clinician, researcher and medical administrator, and most recently served as Vice-Dean of Medical Sciences at Oxford University, considered by some to be the world’s top medical faculty.

From treating tropical diseases in Papua New Guinea, to working with rabies patients in Sri Lanka, through to pioneering HIV research in South Africa, Professor Phillips has conducted many years of bedside and laboratory research in rural Asia, Africa and the United Kingdom. He has an enduring interest in the great health challenges of the developing world, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

Professor Phillips says he has been impressed by the medical research conducted at UNSW, which is well recognised internationally, and the UNSW graduates he has met over the years of his international career.

“What makes research world-class versus excellent is largely determined by attracting and supporting the very best people who ask the best questions and have the capacity to answer them,” he says.

“I think Australian universities, including UNSW, should be very clear that they can be as good as anywhere else in the world.

“Australia needs to make the most of its affluence and invest in what it is good at: education and being novel and innovative. UNSW provides a fantastic forum for that.”

Professor Phillips says he is dedicated to supporting the training of Indigenous and rural doctors at UNSW.

“There is tremendous potential at UNSW to do even better by continuing to offer first class clinical training for rural and regional students and by conducting research that addresses the most significant health issues,” he says.

“Society invests heavily in medical research. I believe that we bear responsibility to make the most of this trusteeship by training and attracting the best and the most motivated people to carry out this work.”

Professor Phillips’ appointment has been warmly welcomed by UNSW’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Jacobs.

“UNSW Medicine is one of Australia’s great medical schools and recognised as a leading centre for medical and health related education and research,’ says Professor Jacobs.

“I am delighted that Professor Phillips joins us today as Dean of Medicine. He has had a distinguished career in the UK in both medical administration and research and there is no doubt that he will lead the faculty with distinction.” 

Professor Phillips succeeds Professor Peter Smith who is stepping down after ten years in the role.

Professor Phillips’ biography can be found here.