Thursday, 24 March 2016

SPHPM forensic expert receives honorary doctorate in Belgium

Professor Olaf Drummer, Head of SPHPM’s Department of Forensic Medicine (DOFM) and Deputy Director (Academic Programs) at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) was awarded an honorary doctorate (doctor honora causa) from the University of Antwerp in Belgium. The award recognises his extraordinary career as a forensic pharmacologist and toxicologist as well as his vital role in establishing VIFM’s world-class forensic laboratories and academic programs at DOFM.

The award also highlights the esteemed international reputation of Professor Drummer, DOFM and VIFM. VIFM in partnership with DOFM provides opportunities for training, education and research in a wide range of forensic medical and scientific disciplines. Professor Drummer was honoured at the ceremony along with just three other scientists from around the world at the distinguished annual event.

Professor Drummer was integral in developing DOFM’s research program, which has grown to include: opioid toxicity and minimizing iatrogenic deaths from methadone; adverse effects of drugs as applied to forensic cases; drug redistribution and stability in post mortem cases; and crash risk of drugs in drivers of motorised vehicles.

This research has led to significant changes in government policy, such as reforming the administration of methadone to opioid addicts and in establishing effective drug-driving enforcement programs; and in improving the evidence basis of opinions in forensic medicine and science.

In his role as Deputy Director of academic programs at the VIFM he is responsible for the teaching and research activities of the Institute. The Institute is also responsible for all Forensic Medical services in the State of Victoria that includes associated forensic labs; one of which is forensic toxicology.

Professor Drummer has been instrumental in establishing this laboratory, which now provides a full time service for death investigations, drug detection in suspected drug associated assaults, and over 10,000 annual cases in drivers for alcohol and drugs. The Institute’s forensic operations are at the forefront of forensic toxicology science.

Professor Drummer’s career in research began in 1974, initially as a PhD student on structure-activity relationships of compounds acting on alpha and beta-adrenergic receptors and then as a National Health and Medical Research Centre (NHMRC) Research Fellow in biochemical pharmacology, researching mechanisms of drug action in hypertension — largely beta blockers and ACE inhibitors.

In 1989 his career took a major turn when he was spearheaded to an executive role at the newly established VIFM to launch and lead the forensic laboratories. From the outset Professor Drummer has been ambitious in developing a diverse research program in forensic medicine at the Institute and passionate about extending our understanding of drug effects and drug interpretation through research and teaching.

Professor Drummer’s profile is global with a long history of service to a number of international associations, serving both as treasurer and president of The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT), and for several years Chair of the drugs of abuse committee at the International Congress of Therapeutic Drug Monitoring and Clinical Toxicology (IATDMCT). He is currently President of the Australian Clinical and Forensic Toxicology Association (FACTA) and an editor for Forensic Science International, responsible for all drugs and toxicology papers.

Congratulations on this outstanding achievement from all of us as SPHPM – a very well deserved accolade.

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