Thirty-one years ago, an up-and-coming physician and immunologist who had recently joined UQ took a surprising phone call.
A woman he did not know was interested in supporting research into one of the most common female cancers, cervical cancer, which was killing an estimated 275,000 women each year.
The phone conversation led to a $120,000 gift from a Queensland family, and to an extraordinary series of outcomes that continue to unfold.
The researcher, Professor Ian Frazer AC, used the donation to buy vital new equipment, and five years later he and a colleague, Dr Jian Zhou, invented a vaccine against the virus that causes cervical cancer, human papillomavirus (HPV).
This gift and other acts of philanthropy have had such strong influence on Professor Frazer’s capacity to make a difference for individuals and society that he and his wife, UQ alumnus Caroline Frazer, now chair UQ’s first comprehensive philanthropic campaign, Not If, When – the Campaign to Create Change.
The campaign is a partnership between donors and the UQ community, and will magnify a tradition of generosity that has shaped lives for more than a century. Our goal is to change lives by fostering support for research, students in need and teaching leadership.
There are some certainties in this campaign. One is that gifts of all sizes will make a difference.
Another is that the long-term impact of our donors is boundless. Could those who funded Professor Frazer’s scholarship at the University of Edinburgh have known what he would later accomplish? Could members of the family who donated to his research in the 1980s have foreseen that their act would help save millions from premature death and suffering?
More than 200 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed globally, and evidence of its health benefits continues to manifest. However, an ongoing challenge is to deliver it in developing regions, where most cervical cancer deaths occur. Progress is being spurred by philanthropists, including Professor Frazer, who supports delivery of the vaccine in poor countries.
And so a beneficiary has become a giver, paying it forward to support others. It is all part of a wondrous cycle of philanthropy – a cycle that will be supercharged by the partnerships formed through this historic campaign.
The story of the HPV vaccine, and of other enhancements arising from generosity towards UQ students and staff, illustrate the transformative power of philanthropy. We now invite you to consider joining us to further enable change for the better, at the individual, societal and global level.
Peter Varghese AO, Chancellor
Professor Peter Høj, Vice-Chancellor and President