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2017 John Studdy Award winner announced

Rex Simmons and Ian Pennell
27 November 2017

MS Australia is thrilled to announce that Dr Rex Simmons is the 2017 John Studdy Award recipient, in recognition of his outstanding achievement in the development of the Australian MS Longitudinal Study for the benefit of people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS).

MS Australia CEO Deidre Mackechnie said today, “Rex’s work recognised the need for research on the social and economic impacts of MS. He has worked tirelessly to provide the evidence to fill gaps in our understanding of the impact of MS and the best ways to support people with MS.”

Dr Simmons started his career in multiple sclerosis research, working on the Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) animal model of MS, as a basic researcher.

In the late 1990s Dr Simmons established a voluntary national register of multi-case MS families, to assist with studies of the genetics of MS in collaboration with Australian and international genetic researchers. Whilst collecting blood samples for genetics studies, he noticed that many people with MS had quality of life issues that could potentially benefit from further research.

In 2000, after organising an international workshop of experts on longitudinal data collection, Dr Simmons obtained crucial support from MS Australia to establish the Australian MS Longitudinal Study (AMSLS), which he ran at Canberra Hospital until he retired in 2014.

Dr Simmons’ vision – a survey-based research study to improve the lives of Australians living with MS, was passed on in perpetuity to the Menzies Institute for Medical Research (University of Tasmania). The study’s ongoing and lasting benefits for the MS community are a testament to Dr Simmons’ foresight, passion and tireless devotion to the cause, and remains a legacy of his work.

Dr Simmons’ research has profoundly impacted our understanding of MS, particularly in:

  • Showing the benefits of early disclosure of MS in the workplace
  • Understanding the reasons why people change or cease their therapy and;
  • Providing the evidence to underpin advocacy for energy subsidies for people living with MS during hot weather.

These and other crucial findings, have made the AMSLS study an invaluable asset for the MS community, with tangible evidence-based outcomes for those living with the condition and their support networks.

Dr Simmons said, "MS research for a cure is vital, but we must never neglect the needs of those currently living with MS, including research on how to optimise their life outcomes."

Dr Simmons maintains a special and ongoing relationship with the MS organisation in the ACT, who, for many years, filled envelopes with questionnaires for the AMSLS in working bees supported by cake and community.  

About The John Studdy Award:
The late John Studdy was a tireless advocate for the multiple sclerosis community in Australia and was dedicated to advancing the wellbeing of people living with MS and the search for a cure.

The highest honour of Multiple Sclerosis Australia and given annually since 1999, the award is for individuals who, like John Studdy, have made a significant contribution to the MS movement in Australia.

Previous winners include Carol Cooke, Simon McKeon, Carol and Roy Langsford, Lina Marrocco and in 2016, Therese Burke.