Dr Laurence Gleeson

inducted 2015 Academia

About Dr Laurence Gleeson

Laurence Gleeson commenced school at St Ann's College in 1952, travelling in from Killarney on the "workers bus" each day and was taught for 2 years by Sister Mary Patrick - a legend in her time. Attending St Joseph's College from 1954, Laurie was a student when the "new school' (now the M Block) was opened in 1955, and completed his secondary education in 1963, graduating with 4 first class honours that lead to the award of an Australian Agricultural Council Scholarship to study veterinary science. During his course he spent summers doing farm work on large properties in NSW and Victoria, learning to ride and working as a station hand and stockman.

Laurie graduated in 1968 and commenced veterinary practice in Geelong at what is now Kardinia Veterinary Practice. This was mostly a small animal practice, but also there was a regular amount of large animal work undertaken.

In mid-1970 he married Margaret Park and they moved to Bunbury in Western Australia where the work was predominantly dairy cattle but with a smattering of small animal and equine work. Their first child Jennifer was born in Bunbury in 1972. In May 1973 the family returned to Victoria and Laurie spend 6 months working at Tatura in the Goulburn Valley, again predominantly on dairy cattle. Barney was born in August 1973.

At the beginning of 1974 Laurie decided to change direction and accepted an Equine Research Foundation scholarship to work on equine viruses at his alma mater under the mentorship of (now) Professor Michael Studdert. On achieving the requirements for a Masters in Veterinary Science degree, the next step in August 1976 was for the family to travel to the USA while Laurie undertook a PhD degree in veterinary virology at Cornell University's New York State Veterinary College. Both Jenny and Barney started school in the US and can still recite the oath of allegiance that was recited every morning at the commencement of school.

In Sept 1980 Laurie returned to Australia and took a position with the Victorian Department of Agriculture as a veterinary pathologist at the Veterinary Research Institute with responsibilities one of the diagnostic laboratories. A significant activity during this time was the big "meat scandal" when his laboratory has to quickly process hundreds of samples daily at the height of the resolution process, and the first recognition of the infectious cause of the emerging koala infertility problem. He also acquired a psittacosis infection while engaged in this work and spent a week in Fairfield Hospital.

He next took a position in 1986 at the newly opened CSIRO Australian Animal Health and in 1987 the family located in northern Thailand while he was project leader of a joint CSIRO - Thai Government research project on Foot and Mouth
Disease. On returning to Geelong at the end of 1990 Laurie again finished up in Fairfield hospital, this time with a liver abscess caused by a common intestinal infection.

During the next 6 years as the leader of the diagnostic services the team was involved in the initial diagnosis of Hendra virus and also the newly recognised bat rabies viruses. The Hendra team was awarded the CSIRO Chairman's Gold Medal for its work. Laurie and Margaret went back to Thailand when he was selected as the inaugural coordinator of the South East Asian FMD control programme under the World Organisation for Animal Health. After 4 years setting this programme in place he returned to CSIRO AAHL again managing the diagnostic service, as well as undertaking international work in Lao PDR, China and Vietnam on various diseases including SARS and Avian Influenza.

When the avian influenza crisis in Asia was gathering momentum, Laurie was recruited by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN to establish a regional control programme for Asia and the Pacific. Margaret and Laurie went back to Bangkok for just under 3 years until he reached the FAO retirement age. Laurie continued to undertake consultancy work on animal disease control programmes for FAO and others in SE Asia until the present time.

In 2010 Laurie was awarded the Kesteven Medal by the Australian Veterinary Association for contributions to international veterinary science. He and Margaret now live in Survey Lane Killarney, back where his journey commenced in 1946.

Dr Laurence Gleeson

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