Inaugural Robert and Gillian Cook Family Award recipients announced

On Friday 9 February, the Melbourne Dental School was pleased to hold a morning tea celebration to announce the inaugural recipients of the Robert and Gillian Cook Family Award.

Mr Peter Tao, Mr Aaron Thomas, Dr Robert Cook, Mrs Gillian Cook and Professor Mike Morgan.

Hosted by Head of School Professor Mike Morgan, the event was a wonderful opportunity to thank our generous donors Dr Robert Cook and Mrs Gillian Cook and to introduce them to the two inaugural recipients, Mr Peter Tao and Mr Aaron Thomas.

Established by the Cooks in 2016, this Melbourne Dental School award provides important financial support to students who are pursuing research in the area of oral and maxillofacial surgery.

Dr Robert Cook AM (BDSc 1952, MDSc 1958) is a dentist who is widely recognised for his work in oral and maxillofacial surgery. Now retired, Dr Cook is eager to give back to his alma mater and support the next generation of students looking to pursue a career in his area of specialisation.

Aaron Thomas

Aaron holds a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (University of Adelaide), Bachelor of Dental Science (University of Western Australia) and Bachelor of Science (Honours) (University of Adelaide), and he is currently Specialist Trainee in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, in the Victorian and Tasmanian Training Program. His clinical and academic interests include the management of facial trauma, correction of facial deformity, and paediatric maxillofacial surgery.

“The Robert and Gillian Cook Family Award is extremely helpful to me as I pursue a Master of Philosophy degree through the Melbourne Dental School. I plan to use this most generous grant to purchase anatomic dissections of the head and neck area to illustrate publications of my research topic, which is on the radiographic analysis of the maxillary artery. The aim of my research is to improve safety in maxillofacial procedures that involve this difficult anatomical region – such as corrective jaw surgery of the maxilla and surgery for trauma to the temporomandibular joint.”

Peter Tao

Peter is a PhD candidate at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute under the guidance of Professor Antony Burgess (BSc (Hons) 1969, PhD 1973). Peter is currently working on a project in close collaboration with the head and neck tumour stream at the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, headed by Associate Professor David Wiesenfeld (BDSc 1976, MDSc 1980). The project aims to translate recent innovations in genetic sequencing and targeted therapies into improving immunotherapy options for patients with oral cancer.

Peter also works as an ear nose and throat registrar at the Royal Melbourne Hospital with an aspiration to become a Head and Neck Cancer Surgeon. Having worked in a busy head and neck cancer unit, his motivation to pursue further research is to improve outcomes for patients with head and neck cancer. All current treatment modalities can carry a large burden of morbidity, disfigurement and even mortality.

“Receiving the Robert and Gillian Cook Family Award has been immensely beneficial to my studies.

“I migrated to Melbourne when I was three with my family from Shanghai, China. I completed my medical degree as a National Medicine Scholar through the University of Melbourne in 2011 followed by my internship at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 2012. Whilst working as a surgical resident I maintained a strong interest in head and neck cancer research, publishing multiple studies in peer-reviewed journals and presenting at national and international conferences. I also hold a Diploma of Surgical Anatomy (2012) from the University of Melbourne and a Masters of Surgery (Surgical Sciences) from the University of Sydney.”