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OP-ED: Clifford Craig Foundation Needs More Support Than Ever

Thursday 11 June 2020, The Examiner

Now, more than ever, medical research is vital. Now just as it relates to the prevalence of the novel Coronavirus, but as it relates to keeping ups healthy and well otherwise during these difficult times. I want to shed some light on some of the world-class medical research that happens right here in our own backyard.

The Clifford Craig Foundation is a health promotion charity that supports the Launceston General Hospital and the tertiary referral hospital for North and North-West Tasmania.

Founded in 1992 the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust (as it was then known) was named after the late Dr Clifford Craig, a distinguished surgeon, administrator and medical historian. Dr Craig was a revered and outstanding contributor to the Launceston General Hospital during his 40 years there. Dr Craig started at the LGH in 1926, becoming director of surgery in 1949 and retired in 1951.

When it was founded, the foundation was set up as an independent organisation focused on the health needs of the local community. Its aim is to support medical research which improves the understanding and treatment of key health conditions affecting Northern Tasmania, particularly diabetes, heart disease, cancer and age-related conditions such as dementia.

A key intention from the outset has been to attract specialists to the Launceston General Hospital by providing them with strong support to undertake medical research locally. A priority for the foundation is medical research and through its activities, the foundation enables and empowers its research teams to find better treatments and ways to cure the health-related issues that are important to Tasmanians.

To this end, the research and educational opportunities provided by the Foundation help attract and retain medical specialists, researchers and higher degree students to live and work in Northern Tasmania.

This work done by the Clifford Craig Foundation is even more impressive when consider that it does not get any government funding. Funding is sourced from other channels including community activities, fundraisers, bequests and grants. Since 1992, the Clifford Craig Foundation has funded over $6.5 million in medical research.

The projects that have been supported are inspiring. Associate Professor George Razay’s research into a potentially treatable form of dementia called Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus is one such example of the incredible progress being made towards diagnosing and treating conditions which have historically been much harder to work on.

Another example of the fantastic work which has been done by the Clifford Craig Foundation is through attracting the likes of Dr Katie Flanagan to come and work in Northern Tasmania. Dr Flanagan studied at Oxford, completed her medical training in London and worked for seven years in West Africa conducting an infant immunology research program. A desire for a lifestyle change and an opportunity to undertake vital medical research in her area of expertise through the Foundation saw Dr Flanagan’s eventual arrival to Launceston.

At the LGH, Dr Flanagan has advised on how to treat tricky infections, as well as on antibiotic use in haematology and oncology departments. Dr Flanagan has also co-led a study of 1,500 babies which looks at the benefits of the BCG vaccine for asthma, allergies and the immune system and a separate study about vaccine mechanisms. In addition to this, Dr Flanagan has supervised several PhD students and continues to conduct research made possible by the Foundation.

Community outreach and events hosted by the Clifford Craig Foundation are also second-to-non. Many will be familiar with the annual International Women’s Day Luncheon which is hosted by the Foundation each year, attracting inspiring guest speakers and generating extremely valuable revenue to continue on its work. Much the same can be said of the Foundation’s Walk and Run for your Heart event, the annual Charity Ball and the Ladies Day out – amongst many other events it runs throughout the year.

Moreover, the Foundation relies heavily on the support of its volunteers and partners. The Friends of Clifford Craig are a group of dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly to raise money for the Foundation’s medical research programs. The wonderfully talented and dedicated people who work with the organisation such as Chief Executive Peter Milne and Toni Maloney, who was the original boss when it was formed in 1992, and who works very closely in a voluntary capacity, also do much to keep engaged with the community and to bring even more enthusiastic volunteers into their ranks.

Now, more than ever, medical research needs our support. The Foundation’s inspiring work cannot continue without our faith and without funds. As things return back to normal, I would encourage everybody to take a look at the work that the Foundation does and, if you are able, to take a look at the volunteering opportunities it offers. We are extremely lucky to have the Clifford Craig Foundation.

Independent Launceston Legislative Councillor

Rosemary Armitage MLC


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