Vale Professor Evelyn Lavu

News | Published on 20 Aug 2021

The Kirby Institute joins colleagues and friends in Papua New Guinea in mourning the sudden loss of Professor Evelyn Lavu, 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 Papua New Guinea for more than a decade, Chair of the PNG Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee, and recently conferred as a Member of the PNG Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR) governing Council. She was appointed the country’s first and only female Professor of Medicine (Pathology) in June 2021. 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.

Anna Maalsen, Acting Head, WHO Country Office, 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 PNGIMR and an Adjunct Professor at the Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney 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.”

“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. Described a daughter of the nation by Prime Minister James Marape, 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” said the Kirby Institute and PNG IMR’s Scientia Associate Professor Angela Kelly-Hanku.

The Kirby Institute extends our deepest condolences to Professor Lavu’s family, friends and colleagues in Papua New Guinea, Australia and our region.