QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute scientist, Professor Penelope Webb has been elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, in recognition of her outstanding achievements as a cancer epidemiologist.
Professor Webb was one of 29 health leaders elected to the Fellowship on Tuesday, joining some of the brightest minds in health and medical sciences.
Fellows of the Academy are chosen by their peers for their exceptional achievements and contributions to a range of fields, including research and industry.
Professor Webb, who coordinates QIMR Berghofer’s Population Health Department and heads its Gynaecological Cancers Group, has earned international recognition for her work on the epidemiology of ovarian and endometrial cancer.
She said it was a great privilege to have her work appreciated by her senior peers in the AAHMS Fellowship.
“At the end of the day, I just hope to make a difference. We have these amazing women participate in our ovarian and endometrial cancer studies, knowing it probably won’t help them but it might help others,” Professor Webb said.
“I want to honour them and help the next generation of women, so they don’t have to suffer as much.”
Professor Webb has helped provide much of the definitive evidence underpinning the current understanding of ovarian cancer risk factors, and has shown that a woman’s lifestyle can influence survival after diagnosis.
She played a key role in setting up the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study, which has helped facilitate research around the world and has led to more than 250 research papers on the disease over the last 15 years.
“A lot of the work that we’ve done has really clarified that there are different types of ovarian cancer with different risk factors, and that wasn’t clear when we started,” she said.
Professor Webb has led and mentored countless young epidemiologists, and her name is well-known to lecturers and students worldwide as the lead author of textbook Essential Epidemiology.
QIMR Berghofer Director and CEO, Professor Fabienne Mackay, congratulated Professor Webb on her well-deserved election to the Fellowship.
“Professor Webb has worked tirelessly to clarify ovarian cancer risk factors and improve survival rates. In Australia, the five-year survival rate is less than 50 per cent,” Professor Mackay said.
“She is also increasingly recognised for her work on endometrial cancer, having set up the Australian National Endometrial Cancer Study in 2005.
“We are proud that one of our senior researchers at QIMR Berghofer has made such a significant contribution to the current understanding of women’s cancers, as recognised by her peers at the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.”
Academy President Professor Ingrid Scheffer was delighted to see the largest ever number of women elected at 66 per cent.
“Academy Fellows are elected by their peers for their outstanding and ongoing contributions to health and medical sciences,” Professor Scheffer said.
“The pandemic has demonstrated the critical role that our expertise in health and medical sciences has played. I look forward to seeing how our new Fellows contribute to the Academy’s goal of addressing the most pressing health challenges facing society.”
Other QIMR Berghofer Fellows of the Academy include Professor Mackay, Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench, Professor Adele Green, Professor Rajiv Khanna, Professor Nick Martin, Professor Don McManus, Professor Sarah Medland and Professor David Whiteman.