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Former UOW Deputy Chancellor honoured at Autumn graduation celebrations

Dr Stephen Andersen recognised for contribution to medicine, healthcare. 

A medical secondment to Papua New Guinea in the late 1960s led to a distinguished career in pathology for former UOW Deputy Chancellor, Dr Stephen Andersen OAM.

“I was completely thrown into the deep end without knowing much about tropical medicine,” he recalled.

“My boss went on leave for a month as soon as I arrived, so I was suddenly placed in charge of a ward of very sick people with exotic diseases that I didn’t know much about.”

Dr Andersen quickly got to work, befriending the ward’s sister and getting to work an hour early every morning to learn on the job – a lesson he has kept with him throughout his medical career.

As well as running a hospital ward, Dr Andersen was placed in charge of a psychiatric ward full of villagers who had run amok.

“Tribal warfare was still prevalent in the area, it was almost a tradition. It made for a pretty wild experience.”

During his stint in Papua New Guinea, Dr Andersen, who had a private pilot’s licence and was in the Australian Army Reserves at the time, also regularly flew in light planes and helicopters around the highlands to deliver immunisations, perform aero-medical evacuations and conduct health patrols.

Making a significant diagnosis on a number of people who had been misdiagnosed for some years led to a huge realisation for Dr Andersen.

“It made me realise how important pathology was, and that’s what led to my eventual career as a pathologist,” he said.

“You need to get the diagnosis right before you get to the treatment.”

Dr Andersen’s foray into pathology led to the establishment of Andersen Pathology in 1979, which operated for 10 years before merging to form Southern Pathology – now known as Southern.IML Pathology.

Southern.IML Pathology provides private pathology services to the Illawarra and South Coast region of New South Wales, and is the largest private pathology practice in the region with approximately 300 employees.

Dr Andersen’s connection with the University of Wollongong started with a Bachelor of Science in 1990. He completed a Masters of Business Administration at UOW and served on University Council as Deputy Chancellor for five and a half years, presiding over many graduation ceremonies – something he cites as one of his greatest achievements.

“It’s a unique experience shaking someone’s hand and handing them a testamur,” he said.

“To hand over qualifications to young graduates and look at the pride and pleasure they have gives a great deal of satisfaction.”

A strong supporter of the University over several decades and a champion of the University’s health research programs, Dr Andersen was made a Fellow of the University in 1998 and in 2012 received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to medical education, to the specialty of pathology and to the community of the Illawarra region.

Dr Andersen has served on the advisory boards of the Wollongong City Mission, Salvation Army and Lifeline South Coast and is a member of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) Board.

For his significant contribution to the Illawarra community and for his outstanding service to the University of Wollongong, Dr Stephen Andersen OAM was today (Tuesday 17 April) awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science.

Delivering the occasional address to a congregation of science, medicine and health graduates, Dr Andersen spoke of the importance of learning from the school of hard knocks.

“I have probably learnt more from my failures and mistakes and how I have recovered from them, than I have from formal education,” he said.

“I have also found that nothing takes the place of persistence and hard work.”

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