A genuine, value driven leader and a mover and a shaker
As one of the world’s most famous researchers, Albert Einstein once said, ‘Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving’. And moving is exactly what Professor Rob Norman has done throughout his interesting career and life. Rob is Co-Director of the NHRMC Centre for Research Excellence in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (CRE in PCOS), to get to know a little more about the man, read below.
As testimony to the body of work amassed over a lifetime of dedication to reproductive health, Professor Rob Norman has received life membership at the meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) held in Geneva early July 2017.
This honour is only awarded to two people per year and almost invariably one of them is a member of the country in which the meeting is being held. It is rare for anyone outside of Europe to be awarded. In the citation, the work on PCOS that Rob had done was particularly noted. More than 3000 people were present during the meeting when the presentation was made at the opening ceremony and Rob gave a speech highlighting the international nature of his research, the importance of working with people who are mentors and supporters and finally, the tremendous privilege of being a clinician-scientist in medicine.
Rob grew up in Zimbabwe as it is now and graduated from the Salisbury Medical School, which was then the Medical College of the University of Birmingham. He worked with the famous Professor Philpot, who invented the partogram, and earned his membership at the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology within four years. Rob then moved to Durban in South Africa where he completed a higher doctorate working in a chemical pathology department and obtained his fellowship at the Royal College of Pathologists in London. Rob’s original work was on the hormones around the onset of labour and he then went to Saint Bartholomew’s in London for a year to work on the structure and function of human chorionic gonadotrophin with Professor Tim Chard.
In 1988, Rob and his family moved to Adelaide to join Professor Jeffrey Robinson and Professor Collin Matthews at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and it was here that he first learned how to do IVF. Rob led the laboratories and the clinical work and developed the clinician-scientist nature of his work. Over the next few decades he became a professor of reproductive and peri-conceptual medicine, ran Repromed Pty Ltd and subsequently Fertility SA; two important fertility companies in South Australia. Here he brought a strong value driven value perspective to a highly commercialised challenging environment and focused strongly on patient and community benefit. He also worked at the Royal Adelaide Hospital as a clinician seeing reproductive medicine patients. He was the inaugural director of the Robinson Research Institute in Adelaide, which looks after the health of men, women and children, through research into the earliest origins of life. This group has more than 400 researchers, around 50 research leaders and is one of the most prominent of its kind in the world.
Rob’s story on the ABC Four Corners last year is here.
Rob has published well over 450 peer-reviewed papers, has 38,000 citations and is a Fellow of the Academy of Health of Medical Sciences. He received an honorary degree from the University of Adelaide (MD) in 2014 and an Order of Australia (AO) in 2013. Rob left the University of Adelaide in 2014 as a fulltime employee but continues as a clinical professor in the School of Medicine, associated with the Robinson Research Institute. He is Medical Director of Fertility SA, where he practices IVF and reproductive endocrinology, while looking after PCOS patients at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. He is gradually reducing his commitments but will continue to be engaged internationally, especially in Asia, as he was past President of the Asia Pacific Initiative on Reproduction (ASPIRE). He continues to support and lead in the CRE and to generously mentor those around him.
Professor Helena Teede is sincerely grateful for Rob’s mentorship, guidance, and diplomacy.