Professor Allan Cripps AO has stepped down from his position as Pro Vice Chancellor (Health) after 13 years of providing the driving force that made Griffith Health what it is today.
In 2003, Professor Cripps accepted the position of Pro Vice Chancellor (Health Planning) and his mission was to establish the Griffith University School of Medicine for the Gold Coast within five years. Just two years into Professor Cripps’ appointment the Griffith School of Medicine and School of Dentistry and Oral Health were opened.
A self-described “boy from the bush”, rural health is an issue close to Professor Cripps’ heart.
“My father was a sheep farmer in a remote area of NSW, so my earliest education was via correspondence and supervised by my mother, a nurse who graduated as dux of her class,” he says.
“I didn’t see the inside of a classroom until I went to a small country school at the age of nine and from there to an agricultural boarding school, which was a big change and a major challenge.”
Professor Cripps’ father was determined that his children wouldn’t follow his footsteps into farming, so he encouraged his son to pursue every opportunity for higher education.
“My childhood in the bush was happy but we didn’t have a lot of money, so had it not been for an Australian Commonwealth Scholarship I might not have made it to university,” Professor Cripps explains.
“I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my younger years and although I was interested in becoming a medical doctor or veterinary surgeon, the thought of moving to Sydney to study was too daunting at that time.
“I studied anatomy and physiology at the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale and with the encouragement and support of my honours supervisor at UNE, I applied for and won an Australian Postgraduate Commonwealth Scholarship to undertake a doctoral program of research in immunology at the University of Sydney.”
Professor Cripps is an internationally recognised leader in the field of mucosal immunology, having authored more than 230 articles published in peer reviewed specialist journals, two books, and several chapters in books on mucosal immunology and vaccine development.
“I had hoped for a career in medicine but my first job was as a hospital scientist, which led me back to research, ” he says.
“I never did get to study medicine but I don’t regret that because I don’t believe I could have done justice to being a clinician, a researcher, as well as an academic administrator. In addition, I know that my academic appointments have enabled thousands of students who wanted to become health professionals.”
Griffith Health has also improved access to education for students from regional areas interested in a career in the health professions, with centres now operating across Queensland and Northern New South Wales.
In 2015, Professor Cripps received an Officer of the Order of Australia Award for distinguished service to tertiary education as a senior administrator, and to public health as a leading immunologist, academic and researcher in the area of mucosal immunisation.
During the course of his career, Professor Cripps’ efforts have brought together academics, researchers and clinicians, to ensure that research is relevant to global health issues, informed by the needs of the community and focused on translation into practice. His area of research has focused on vaccine development, diagnostic technology and mucosal immunity, including gut health. He has now come full circle and is looking forward to having more time to focus on research projects within the School of Medicine and spending more time with his family.
“On the Darling Downs, Allan’s advocacy has created a significant and lasting investment in the future of rural health. He has stood by our commitment to rural Queensland through difficult political and financial periods, providing gentle and reassuring guidance, astute negotiation and resilience. That Griffith now has an internationally regarded multidisciplinary rural health program is a testament to the leadership of Allan Cripps.” — Professor Scott Kitchener Griffith Rural Health Stream and Queensland Rural Medical Education (QRME)
“I’ve known Allan Cripps for decades, initially for his research in the difficult but very important area of mucosal immunity, and latterly for his outstanding contributions as a university administrator. My personal view of him is that he is a very effective, amiable and sophisticated leader, who goes ‘above and beyond’ what is required of him, and makes a very positive contribution in the Australian Health sector. ” — Nobel Laureate Professor Peter C Doherty
“Allan Cripps is a humanitarian and a great leader who doesn’t flaunt his senior position and treats everyone with the respect they deserve. He has contributed so much to the university, particularly in the way he has assisted Indigenous students to claim their rightful place in academia.” — Mr Graham Dillon Kombumerri Elder in Residence Griffith University Gold Coast
“Allan is an eminent scientist and highly respected tertiary health manager with genuine passion for improving health outcomes, particularly in disadvantaged communities. He built an amazing team and we have been incredibly lucky to have him here.” — Mr Peter Westwood Griffith Health Executive Officer
Griffith Health in 2017
Griffith Health prepares students for a future in the healthcare industry by providing them with evidence-based teaching methods, the latest in research, access to experienced academics and clinicians, and state-of-the-art facilities and technologies to help develop their skills in applied settings.