28 September 2022
Professor Lawrie Powell AC, who helped grow and progress QIMR Berghofer during his decade-long tenure as Director, has passed away peacefully, aged 87.
The internationally recognised medical researcher was appointed the Institute’s fifth Director in 1990 after an esteemed career in iron storage disorders, particularly the inherited disease haemochromatosis. Under his leadership, QIMR Berghofer advanced significantly, with Professor Powell instrumental in the development of the Clive Berghofer Cancer Research Centre.
QIMR Berghofer Director and CEO, Professor Fabienne Mackay said Professor Powell’s dedication and commitment to lifesaving work, as well his mentorship of the next generation of scientists, would ensure his legacy endures.
“I had the privilege of meeting Professor Powell when I first arrived at QIMR Berghofer in 2020. He was a very kind man who was still dedicated to the many people he mentored.
We are grateful for the significant contribution he made to medicine and biomedical science throughout his distinguished career and during his time at the Institute,” said Professor Mackay.
Professor Powell was recognised nationally and internationally for his contributions to medicine and received substantial accolades, awards and honours, including the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC); Queensland Great (2002), elected President of the International Association for the Study of Liver, Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in London and UQ Alumnus of the Year. He was the only Australian researcher awarded the Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, in honour of his sustained scientific contributions to the field of liver disease and the scientific foundations of hepatology.
QIMR Berghofer Deputy Director, Professor Grant Ramm worked with Professor Powell for 40-years and said he inspired his own research career in chronic liver diseases.
“My most enduring memory of Lawrie was his unashamed enthusiasm for clinical and basic science or discovery research. No matter how small or indeed significant the new research discovery would be, Lawrie’s excitement in opening up new horizons for understanding the mechanisms leading to liver disease was infectious.
“He was a great champion of fostering partnerships between scientists and clinicians working together in medical research. I have no doubt this working model is the reason why there have been so many significant improvements in our understanding of disease mechanisms and in both the diagnosis and treatment of people living with haemochromatosis,” said Professor Ramm.
QIMR Berghofer’s Professor Greg Anderson, paid tribute to his former colleague’s unwavering dedication to whatever he undertook.
“Be it in clinical work or his research he gave his all. He was a great mentor, and many of those who trained with him as clinicians or scientists have gone on to have distinguished careers, he was very proud of that,” Professor Anderson said.
Lawrie Powell graduated from Brisbane State High School in 1952, trained at the then Royal Brisbane Hospital and successfully passed the examinations for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. His research career took him to London, North America and Copenhagen before landing back in Australia where he secured an appointment as senior lecturer in the Department of Medicine at The University of Queensland at the Royal Brisbane Hospital.
He remained warmly engaged with QIMR Berghofer and the scientific community in his later years.
Outside his professional life, he had a love of cricket, music and his treasured family.
Daughter and Hepatologist, Professor Elizabeth Powell who followed in her father’s research footsteps, said he was not only an eminent clinician and researcher but a much loved family man.
“My father’s life was driven by his two great loves – his wife and family, and hepatology. His legacy lives on through his 13 grandchildren, and the very many scholars, scientists and clinicians he has mentored throughout his life,” said Professor Elizabeth Powell.
Lawrie is survived by his wife of 60 years, Margaret and four of their five children, Elizabeth, Mark, Martine and Christa.