Professor Ian Gust on his time at the School in the 1960’s, and his career since then…
“The main challenges I faced were the distractions associated with living in London during the “swinging sixties’, sharing a house with 3 working couples who like to entertain or go out in the evenings and having very little money.
Because London was such an exciting place, and I wanted to experience all it had to offer, the only time to study was early in the morning. The winter of 1967-68 was very cold and I developed the habit of rising at 4am, putting a shilling in the gas meter and climbing into a sleeping bag and starting my day with a cup of nescafe and a stale croissant, bought for half price at the local baker the night before. Before donning gloves and climbing into a sleeping bag and starting on the books.
As the 1967 Bacteriology class was small, it was not surprising that we formed firm friendships. As colleagues such as Alan White, Tony Little and Tissa Vitarana rose to positions of importance, they became invaluable sources of information and helped me to contact other people who could assist in my work in Australia.
I also developed strong and enduring relationships with many of the staff, especially Prof Ari Zuckerman and his colleagues Pat Taylor and Kasei Tsykye who shared my interest in viral hepatitis. Ari and I continued to work on the control of hepatitis B and later HIV infections and met at many conferences and WHO workshops over the next two decades.
In the 1960’s, international conferences were uncommon, communications occurred largely by mail and publications took weeks or months to reach Australia. As a result Scientists who had an extensive network of contacts in International laboratories or were able to travel extensively, had an enormous advantage.
I used my vacations before and after the Diploma to travel extensively in Europe, Scandinavia and the Soviet Union, seeking out the leaders in the field. Subsequently, when I returned to Australia and our laboratory was designated as a WHO Collaborating Centre, I had the opportunity to participate in annual meetings of the Directors which was an enormous advantage.
I have been fortunate to have lived through an exciting period in the history of control of infectious diseases and to have been involved in, or an interested bystander to many important events. It’s hard to pick a single highlight, but in retrospect the things that have given me greatest satisfaction have been:
- Spearheading the fight to add HB vaccine to the Expanded Program of Immunization, because it forced WHO and UNICEF to rethink their policies on vaccine procurement and delivery, face up to the funding implications and seek innovative approaches.
- Being part of the teams that developed the world’s first HA and HPV vaccines
- Founding a new research institute the Burnet Institute – which has flourished and now has more than 400 staff half of which work in the developing world.
- Leading Australia’s response to the AIDS epidemic, especially safeguarding the quality of the blood supply and ensuring that the public was well informed.
- Mentoring a generation of ID physicians and research scientist
- Being married to the same person for 45 years and raising 5 children of whom we are extremely proud.”