1996 Sidney Sax Medallist - Dr John Yu

Dr. John Yu has given a lifetime of commitment to hospitals and health services and the current and future children of Australia owe him a huge debt.

Late 1995 this man realised one of his life's great passions when the New Children's Hospital at Westmead in New South Wales officially opened a world's best practice facility, a facility which marries art, design and the best in medical care for young people.

It is widely acknowledged that the New Children's Hospital and the high standards of paediatric care and research in Australia would not have been possible without this man's vision, perseverance and commitment made over almost forty years in medicine.

Dr. John Yu has made an incredibly valuable contribution to Australian medicine, and the quality of life of thousands of Australian children during his journey through life.

He was smuggled out of Nanking in China as a three year old shortly before it fell to the Japanese forces in World War II.

He travelled to Australia with his mother and sister to join relatives who had been living here since the Victorian gold rushes in the 1860's.

As an Australian born overseas, Dr. Yu is an Australian who has spent almost all of his adult life making a major contribution to his country.

Paediatrics and South East Asian decorative arts have been the key threads which John Yu has woven through the fabric of his life.

He is an acknowledged expert on the decorative arts of South East Asia and has written and lectured extensively on the subject.

With his keen interest in art and in making it more accessible to Australians, he saw the opportunity to use art and the best in medical care at the New Children's Hospital to create a nurturing and gentle environment for young patients and their families.

This facility, where art, colour and open space are far more common than the traditional white coats, is a culmination of Dr. Yu's patience, drive and personal effort, which has set new world standards in paediatric care.

As well as his Asian heritage and his interest in Asian art, John Yu also sees a strong future role for Australian medicine in assisting Asian Pacific nations to develop health education programs. He has, and still is very active in the pursuit on such initiatives.

His concern for children also extends beyond medicine. He believes strongly that the needs of Australian children must be considered when Governments develop policy and draft legislation. He says that all too often the impact on children of major decisions which affect their capacity to learn, achieve and experience life, is an afterthought instead of a priority.

John Yu has been the Chief Executive of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, now the New Children's Hospital, since 1978 and before that was head of the hospital's Department of Medicine and he continues to practice paediatrics.

He has served on the Council of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, the Paediatric Research Society and was formerly Treasurer of the Australian College of Paediatrics.

From 1990 1995 he was President of the Australian Association of Paediatric Teaching Centres.

He is the National Patron of the Australian Association for the Welfare of Child Health and is a member of the Board of the Health Services Association of New South Wales and the Starlight Foundation.

John has for many years fulfilled roles of consultant, lecturer and examiner throughout Australia and South east Asia in areas of medical education, research and teaching.

He has held senior positions in a number of professional bodies including the Postgraduate Medical Foundation and the Royal Australian College of Physicians. He is on the Board of Trustees of the Powerhouse Museum, as well as being an honorary associate of the Museum and has published extensively on paediatrics, management issues and the decorative arts.

In recognition of an outstanding life of service and commitment in which he has profoundly enriched
Australia and Australians, he was honoured in 1996 by being named Australian of the Year.

John Yu is quoted as saying "I am proud of my Chinese heritage, but even prouder to be an Australian".

It is both an honour and a privilege to present the 1996 Sid Sax Medal to Dr. John Yu.