ANU honoured with MS Australia 50 Years President’s Medal

(L-R) Associate Professor Anne Bruestle, Dr Vanessa Fanning, Rohan Greenland (CEO at MS Australia), and Dr Mary Webb. Image: Calo Huang
30 January 2023

The Australian National University (ANU) has been recognised as one of the recipients of the MS Australia 50 Years President’s Medal by Australia’s national multiple sclerosis (MS) organisation.

Since its establishment in 1972 as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of Australia (NMSSA), MS Australia has been a tireless advocate for improvements in the lives of people affected with MS, a chronic condition of the central nervous system.

To mark its 50th anniversary of progress in driving awareness, research, and support for people with MS, the nonprofit organisation has selected 50 recipients to be awarded the MS Australia 50 Years President’s Medal.

ANU Associate Professor Anne Bruestle, who is chairing Our Health in Our Hands (OHIOH), a multidisciplinary research project focusing on MS and diabetes, received the Medal on the University’s behalf.

“This Medal honours our efforts which go beyond the normal research and engagement activities and makes us a true and valued member of the Australian MS community,” said Associate Professor Bruestle.

When Bruestle joined ANU in 2014, she felt a strong need to connect with people with MS, the condition she studies.

It was Professor Robyn Lucas, now an ANU Emeritus Professor who is also an awardee of the President’s Medal, who brought her in contact with the local MS community.

“Ever since our initial contact, we have organised annual MS Symposia with and for people with MS to bring clinicians, researchers, students, and the MS community together,” said Associate Professor Bruestle.

 MS Australia
MS Australia CEO Rohan Greenland joined and presented at the 2022 ACT MS Symposium at ANU. Image: MS Australia

Her initial collaboration with Professor Lucas also paved the foundation for the OHIOH initiative.

In 2017, the OHIOH initiative became the first winning program in ANU Grand Challenges, which invests in research tackling the world’s most intractable problems.

Committed to bringing together clinicians, researchers, students, and the MS community to work towards the cure for MS, the OHIOH group has worked closely with MS Australia and has had multiple breakthroughs in MS research.

As a group leader at The John Curtin School of Medical Research and later the MS Research Lead in OHIOH, Associate Professor Bruestle has witnessed how the close collaboration between MS researchers at ANU and MS Australia has been deepened and expanded.

“Over the years, MS Australia has funded multiple ANU projects. I would like to highlight an incubator grant awarded to OHIOH’s Health Experience Team led by Associate Professor Jane Desborough to develop a toolkit for collaboration between researchers and people living with MS,” said Associate Professor Bruestle.

 “My research group working on the immunology of MS has further received two project grants in 2017 and 2020,” she said.

“And of course, MS Australia has been a promotor and sponsor for our annual ACT MS Symposia.”

At the same time, members of OHIOH have participated in many workshops and focus groups organised by MS Australia, providing valuable input regarding the research, education, and care of MS.

Dr Vanessa Fanning and Dr Mary Webb, both highly valued contributors to the OHIOH team, have also been awarded the President’s Medal for their hard work, passionate dedication, and contributions to the MS community in Australia and internationally.

“This is, in particular, important for us here in the ACT,” Associate Professor Bruestle remarked, referring to the recognition by MS Australia.

“While the large research and clinical centres for MS are in Melbourne and Sydney, this Medal brings us onto the map.”