Image: Professor Evelyn Lavu presents at Burnet Institute in 2017
The Burnet Institute community has been deeply saddened with the tragic news of the sudden death in Papua New Guinea of our colleague and friend, Professor Evelyn Lavu.
After graduating in medicine at the University of Papua New Guinea in 1986, Professor Lavu had a long and distinguished career as a clinician, researcher and laboratory scientist.
She lived a life of service that was dedicated to improving the health of the people of PNG and to strengthening medical and laboratory services in Port Moresby and across the country through training, mentoring and advocacy.
In particular, she was an outstanding role model and advocate for women in medicine and science, and described by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister The Hon. James Marape MP as ‘an outstanding daughter of the nation’ in his tribute to Professor Lavu, published to Facebook.
Professor Lavu completed postgraduate specialist training in Australia as a haematologist and, as Director of PNG’s Central Public Health Laboratory, she was a vital leader and collaborator who strived to reduce the burden of infectious diseases on her people.
Evelyn Lavu was recently appointed as the first female Professor of Medicine at the University of Papua New Guinea.
Ever the trailblazer, Professor Lavu was soon to complete her PhD thesis, a further example of her tireless commitment to improving health through education and capacity building.
Image: Professor Lavu (centre) with Burnet collaborators Dr Philipp du Cros, Professor James Beeson, Dr Suman Majumdar and Ms Stephanie Main in 2018
Her decision to add PhD studies to an already distinguished career was motivated by a desire to address the scourge of drug-resistant tuberculosis, to learn new skills that she could translate to build national laboratory capacity and to provide academic leadership to her junior colleagues.
The abiding memory of Evelyn for many will be the warmth, compassion and generosity that she consistently embodied and maintained throughout her remarkable career.
She cared so deeply for her family and community in Port Moresby and Central Province, and for her many friends throughout Papua New Guinea and Australia.
She was humble and sincere with an incredible ability to connect with people, to bring people together and to solve complex challenges.
Always perceptive and respectful, she had the courage and ability to speak her truth quietly and clearly.
We will feel the ramifications of her loss for decades to come, as will the people of Papua New Guinea.
We will continue to be inspired by her example and work to protect and enhance her enduring legacy.
Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Mark, Lewa and Kanau, and with all her loving family.