I am writing to let you know that after five years of outstanding work at UNSW Professor Rodney Phillips will step down from his role at UNSW at the end of June 2020. I will be sad to see Rodney go but am enormously grateful for everything he has contributed to UNSW.
Rodney joined us from Oxford University in 2015, returning to Australia where he had trained many years earlier in medicine at the University of Melbourne. We were fortunate to attract him to UNSW, bringing a wealth of experience in medical training, health research, infrastructure development and strategic planning to the role of Dean of our Faculty of Medicine.
Rodney quickly took on the challenge of developing the next phase of UNSW Medicine building on the legacy of Professor Peter Smith, his predecessor. He introduced a thematic approach to our medical research reflecting our strengths, societal and health service needs and the direction of travel of health sciences. He reinforced the focus on quality in our approach to education, ensuring that we linked even more effectively with our health care partners. And as so many colleagues have reflected, Rodney brought enormous gravitas to our interactions both internal to UNSW and with a range of external partners. He represented us superbly on numerous external boards related to medical research institutes, local health districts, government agencies and other external partners.
Rodney’s achievements have been numerous. I am particularly grateful for four which I believe will be part of his enduring legacy in Sydney. Firstly, he played a key role in helping to create and launch SPHERE (Sydney Partnership for Health, Education, Research and Enterprise), bringing together three local health districts, three universities and seven medical research institutes linking from central Sydney through to Liverpool and Western Sydney. His contribution was critical in securing national NHMRC accreditation for the new venture. SPHERE is of increasing regional and national importance in building strong links between academia, healthcare and our communities.
Secondly, Rodney has played an important role in changing the nature of our interactions with our medical research institute partners. He has consistently supported an approach focused on generosity in partnership and alignment of strategy and objectives. That has led to a series of new agreements which have opened up new exciting opportunities.
Thirdly, early in his time as Dean, Rodney saw the potential of building links with The George Institute. His careful and thoughtful discussions with the George leadership led to an association with UNSW which is yielding enormous benefits and his approach developed a level of personal trust which has underpinned the success of the partnership. The UNSW-George link is now embedded in our approach to medicine, health and partnership, not least through the appointment of Professor Vlado Perkovic, who was previously head of the Sydney component of the George Institute, as our current Dean.
Fourth, Rodney has worked hard to transform our relationships with our key healthcare partners in South-West Sydney, South-East Sydney and St Vincent’s Health Districts. This has led to an extraordinary array of developments in our shared precincts which will continue to yield healthcare and research benefits for decades. His advocacy for the Randwick Health Precinct, which we now see taking shape has been exemplary and has been built on close relationships with the LHD leadership and NSW Health. He was a highly persuasive advocate in complex discussions for the importance of ensuring that every opportunity is taken to achieve genuine integration across academia and healthcare. Rodney will be able to enjoy seeing that development progress in future years and can take great pride in his contribution to making it happen.
Rodney’s tenure as Dean was interrupted by illness which required exhausting treatment, but from which I am delighted he has made an excellent recovery. Throughout that difficult time I admired the way he maintained his commitment and enthusiasm for UNSW and the Faculty. Most recently following Vlado’s appointment Rodney took on the role Pro Vice-Chancellor Health with particular responsibility for the partnerships and precincts he has nurtured so skilfully.
These are just some of Rodney’s wide ranging contributions. In recognition of this, and much more, I am delighted to let you know that in recognition of Rodney’s contribution to the Faculty of Medicine and his distinguished career at UNSW, he has been conferred the title of Emeritus Professor upon his departure.
My thanks to Rodney for the commitment, gravitas, expertise and quality leadership he contributed in both UNSW roles. Like his predecessors in the proud history of UNSW Medicine he leaves an important legacy for our university, NSW and Australia.
I know that Rodney will remain closely linked to UNSW in whatever he does next in policy and advisory roles in Australia and the UK.
We cannot, given current circumstances, give him a send-off event, but we can look forward to many visits and celebrations as the ventures he has established progress.
I know that you will join me in wishing Rodney the very best for a happy and healthy future.
Professor Ian Jacobs
President and Vice-Chancellor