The achievements of Lions Australia members and those of Lions Clubs around the world are difficult to precis in just a few words.
They range from the small projects and assistance that are offered in our communities every day, to the large, life-saving and life-changing breakthroughs of major medical research projects that Lions have supported for decades.
But here’s just a few …
The cervical cancer vaccine was discovered by Australian medical researcher and immunologist, Professor Ian Frazer AC.
In 1985, Dr Frazer received seed funding from the Lions Medical Research Foundation to research drugs used in the treatment of HIV (human immuno-deficiency virus). An observation during this research indicated that HPV (human papillomavirus) infection seemed to induce pre-cancerous cells.
Working with virologist Jian Zhou, work began on developing the HPV vaccine and sending it to clinical trials. The first vaccine, Gardasil, completely protected unexposed women against four HPV strains responsible for 70% of cancers and was made available to Australian girls in 2007.
Ongoing research revealed that the cervical cancer vaccine also protected boys and men from HPV infection – responsible for cancers in men such as throat cancers, anal and penile cancers, and genital warts.
The more recent iteration – Gardasil 9 – now offers protection from nine strains of HPV.
In 2018, research by the Cancer Council of Australia showed that Australia is set to become the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer following the success of the HPV vaccination program and changes to the National Cervical Screening Program.
Professor Graeme Clark is credited with being the inventor of the bionic ear. Professor Clark’s father was deaf, so he grew up seeing the hardship of living in silence – including the frustration, anguish and resulting isolation. He also witnessed his father’s desire for a greater connection to others, and was determined to make it possible.
In the mid-1960s, while working as an ear surgeon in Melbourne, Australia, Professor Clark came upon a scientific paper by Blair Simmons in the US. It described how a profoundly deaf person received hearing sensations through electrical stimulation, but no speech understanding. The seed was planted, and in 1967 he began researching the possibility of an electronic, implantable hearing device: a cochlear implant.
In 1978, the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital developed a prototype implant for the use of a totally hearing-impaired patient.
In 1988 the cost of the total device was almost $13,000, however almost from the start of the research project the Melbourne-based Lions Hearing Research Fund was contributing significantly to the work.
In 1990 the Lions International Deafness Research Fellowship was established, consisting of a full-time research position in the Australian Bionic Ear and Hearing Research Institute at the University of Melbourne.
Over the next few years, Melbourne University in conjunction with Cochlear Pty Ltd developed a wearable speech processor designed for use with a reliable implant. The device went on to be marketed worldwide.
In the 1970s, life for someone diagnosed with leukaemia was hard and there was little support. Treatment meant months of chemotherapy, severe side-effects and isolation from their family to remove the risk of infection. Parents were not allowed to comfort and care for their children, and family had to navigate the psychological challenges alone.
Brisbane’s first clinical haematologist, Dr Trevor Olsen, agitated for change. Frustrated by the lack of medical and support facilities, he decided with the help of Kurilpa Lions Club, to purchase a lamina flow bed which was donated to the Mater Hospital. At the time, Dr Olsen was treating a young boy whose father was secretary of the Holland Park Lions Club, Bernie Stevenson.
After watching his young son die from leukaemia, Bernie Stevenson introduced Dr Olsen to the Holland Park Lions Club, and the Lions Leukaemia Foundation was formed on 9 October 1975.
The new Foundation set four goals: to provide medical care, patient support, fund research and to educate patients, their families and nursing staff.
Now, the Leukaemia Foundation is proud to be the only national charity dedicated to helping those with leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma and related blood disorders survive and then live a better quality of life.
The formative years helped to form today’s Leukamia Foundation, with a focus on pursuing the strategies needed to respond to the current and future needs of people impacted by leukaemias, lymphomas, myelomas and related blood disorders.
Today, Lions Australia continues to work to provide support for many areas of medical research including childhood cancers, Alzheimer’s Disease, spinal cord injury and cord blood research.