Prof Vlado Perkovic: Shaping healthcare around the world

Professor Vlado Perkovic is Executive Director of The George Institute, Australia and George Clinical, and a Professor of Medicine at The University of Sydney. 

What are some of the biggest challenges facing global health?  

Despite a century of incredible advances in medicine and science, it’s estimated that in the next decade 100 million people will die from chronic disease before they turn 60. Research shows that lifestyle-related diseases are playing a big part in this, and are growing rapidly. We urgently need to move away from archaic models of care and work out what an optimal, 21st century healthcare system looks like, both in countries like Australia and in resource-poor settings, and find a way to put a stop to the scourge of chronic disease and injury. 

How can Australia help? 

Australia is home to some of the world’s best in research and innovation, with medical research being one of our biggest exports. This expertise, along with our close ties to Asia, gives us a unique opportunity to foster these relationships and use innovation to develop new effective ways to prevent and treat disease, and to deliver affordable healthcare. As the largest burden of disease globally is in Asia, this is a major responsibility for our country. Furthermore, much of what we learn from these cross-country collaborations will help to improve healthcare here in Australia. 

What is The George Institute, Australia focused on? 

We continue to focus on finding the most effective ways to prevent and treat the leading causes of death and disability, and help Australians live healthier lives. We’re also increasingly looking for ways to integrate research into health reform, influence health policy and create a sustainable health system able to effectively support the complex needs of people with chronic disease. Our research is looking at a wide range of areas like heart, kidney, and respiratory diseases, stroke, back pain, injury and falls, intensive care, food policy, health economics and e-health. 

I see the biggest success of The George… 

Being ranked among the top 10 research institutes in the world for impact for several years now is no small feat, especially for such a young organisation. Our many partnerships around the globe with local hospitals, academic institutions and commercial organisations are central to this success as are our ambitious large-scale, international clinical trials. Our research is shaping healthcare in Australia and around the world. 

Where to from here? 

More of the same, and extra emphasis on research that can bring about real and affordable change within a few years—from individual medicines to healthcare delivery. This will mean an even bigger focus on technology and innovation in how healthcare is delivered, population-based and scalable approaches to prevention and treatment, and more collaborations with the private and public health sector. And, supporting our staff through their careers so they can become the next generation of leaders in health. 

What motivated you to join The George? 

I trained in nephrology in Melbourne but always wanted to make a difference on a global scale which was not easy from Australia. I joined the Institute to learn how to run clinical trials, loved the work and the people, and that it was one of the few Australian organisations having a major global impact on health, and haven’t looked back! 

What if? 

It would be wonderful to have a pool of untied funds to support the best researchers in the country, and to fast track research that targets the biggest health priorities in Australia, like reducing the disproportionate burden of chronic disease and injury that falls on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and around the world.


First published in The George Institute for Global Health 2014-15 Annual Report