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Sudden death of Professor Evelyn Lavu

Professor Evelyn Lavu

| Kirby Institute

SYDNEY - The Kirby Institute joins colleagues and friends in Papua New Guinea in mourning the sudden loss of Professor Evelyn Lavu.

Professor Lavu was the country’s most senior pathologist and an internationally recognised leader in the fight against HIV, malaria and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Professor Lavu was director of the Central Public Health Laboratory in PNG for more than a decade, chair of the PNG Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee, and recently conferred as a member of the governing council of the PNG Institute of Medical Research.

She was appointed the country’s first and only female Professor of Medicine (Pathology) only in June and was on the threshold of completing a PhD.

Born and raised in Central Province, Professor Lavu became a medical doctor and graduated from the University of Papua New Guinea in 1986.

Following her graduation she completed postgraduate training in haematology at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (FRCPA) in 1996.

In PNG, her passing is recognised at the highest levels of government as a huge loss for the country. In a tribute, prime minister James Marape referred to her as “an outstanding daughter of the nation”.

Anna Maalsen, acting head of the World Health Organisation in PNG said, “her pioneering work in mentoring and guiding the establishment of HIV early infant diagnosis and viral load testing has had an enormous impact on the success of Papua New Guinea’s HIV response.

“Many babies are now thriving and have grown into productive and healthy members of society thanks to the sustainable efforts and development of this program across the country.”

Professor William Pomat, director of the PNG Institute of Medical Research, said, “Evelyn was a pioneer in pathology and clinical medicine who strived to achieve excellence in all that she and her team did.

“She was an inspirational mentor and leader, and a dear friend to so many of us. Her passing is an incalculable loss to our country and to us all.”

Associate Professor Angela Kelly-Hanku of the Kirby Institute said, “Evelyn led the way in laboratory diagnostics and embraced advances to new health issues including HIV and most recently drug-resistant TB where she undertook training to learn genome sequencing.

“She was a mentor to all women in health and medicine in PNG. Most recently she has been a quiet, but steadfast, leader in the country’s response to Covid-19.”

The Kirby Institute extends our deepest condolences to Professor Lavu’s family, friends and colleagues in Papua New Guinea, Australia and our region. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Mark, Lewa and Kanau, and with all her loving family.


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Kenny Pawa

Rest in Eternal Peace Prof.

May we meet again on that Golden morning.

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