November 7, 2023  Print

The Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR) congratulates final year PhD student, Dr Olaitan Ogunbodede, who was recently announced as NSW International Student of the Year – Higher Education.

A student of The University of Sydney, Dr Ogunbodede is completing his PhD studies at WIMR.  Supervised by Professors Scott Byrne and Andrew Harman, and Dr Kirstie Bertram in WIMR’s Centre for Immunology and Allergy Research, Dr Ogunbodede’s work focuses on understanding the role of the immune system in the development of complex diseases.

Dr Ogunbodede is passionate about improving health outcomes through his research and his role as a front-line health worker at Blacktown Hospital Emergency Department.  He also works tirelessly to help raise awareness about how COVID-19 impacts sexual health and sexually transmitted infections. 

Dr Ogunbodede has also volunteered for the Great Lakes Agency for Peace and Development (GLAPD) in Merrylands to help refugee communities access food, water and clothing during the pandemic.  He continues to help connect these communities and support their entry into the Australian workplace.
Hailing from Nigeria, where he became a registered medical practitioner, Dr Ogubbodede received an Australia Awards scholarship funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to undertake a Master of Medicine (Infection and Immunity) at The University of Sydney.  He was then awarded a scholarship to complete a PhD at WIMR, generously funded by The Neil and Norma Hill Foundation.

Dr Ogunbodede said his passion is motivated by personal experiences in Nigeria.

“I hail from a region of Nigeria that is heavily impacted by complex infectious and immunological diseases such as Malaria, Lassa Fever, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, as well as several new and emerging cancers. Often, these diseases are hard to treat and have become a major public health challenge, both locally and globally.

“Having witnessed the devastating impact these diseases have on individuals, and the pressure they place on the health system, I said to myself, “we must do better, we must know better and must treat these diseases better”. Hence, my interest in unravelling the immunological basis of such diseases.

“I also know that as a medical doctor, I can contribute both at the lab bench and patient bedside, hence the motivation to get registered as a medical practitioner in Australia and continue to impact lives positively during my training.

“Every time I step into the research laboratory at WIMR and carry out experiments, it feels rewarding knowing that my knowledge and findings will someday contribute to solving some of our most pressing health challenges, not just locally, but around the world.”

Dr Ogunbodede is particularly grateful for the supervision, mentorship, training and support he has received as a PhD student from the Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD). Like WIMR, WSLHD are partners of the Westmead Health Precinct, allowing collaboration and knowledge sharing for the benefit of patients now, and into the future.

“The support I have received from the wonderful people at The Westmead Institute for Medical Research and across the Westmead Health Precinct has been integral in my success so far.  

“Firstly, my supervisors, Professor Scott Byrne, Professor Andrew Harman and Dr Kirstie Bertram, and my mentor Professor David Brown at WIMR. These are truly wonderful individuals. I cannot imagine my journey here without their support and tutelage.

“The success of my experiments and my research project lies mainly with the various support these individuals provide. As I work within and outside of the lab, I receive huge support, scrutiny, and reviews to my proposals, such that my work and ideas are refined and executed to become significantly better than what they would ordinarily have been.

“They do all of this with immense passion and care, and I can firmly say they have indeed become like family to me, and I remain incredibly indebted to their contributions.”

WIMR’s Professor Scott Byrne, one of Dr Ogunbodede’s PhD supervisors, nominated him for the NSW International Student of the Year award.

Professor Byrne said, “I am incredibly proud of Dr Ogunbodede. I nominated him for this award because I never cease to be amazed and inspired by his passion and energy, and commitment to improving and saving lives.

“It was a very competitive field and only three students from across NSW made the final.  Dr Ogunbodede is a very worthy recipient of this prestigious award.

“I am also delighted that Dr Ogunbodede’s success highlights the world class opportunities, facilities, leadership and support that are available to PhD students across the Westmead Health Precinct.”