Associate Professor Haryana Dhillon speaking at a podium, with her award.

Associate Professor Haryana Dhillon awarded 2023 John Zalcberg AO Award

 

The AGITG is proud to present the 2023 John Zalcberg AO Award to Associate Professor Haryana Dhillon.

The award recognises her significant and outstanding leadership in AGITG research for many years. A/Prof Dhillon was nominated by Jan Mumford, former Chair of the Community Advisory Panel.

“It is quite overwhelming to receive this recognition,” said A/Prof Dhillon.

“The fact that my nomination came from Jan Mumford, a long-standing consumer advocate with the AGITG, was particularly moving. I really value the insight people with lived experience bring to the research being undertaken, and to have my involvement recognised by Jan was very special.”

A/Prof Dhillon has been a member of the AGITG since 1996 – one of the earliest pioneers of the organisation. As a behavioural scientist and psycho-oncologist, she is often involved in and champions research with a focus on “helping people to live as well they possibly can for their remaining lives,” as she said in her AGITG Member Spotlight.

She is currently Co-Chair for the OXTOX trial, a colorectal cancer study aiming to reduce toxicity from chemotherapy, and Australian Study Co-Chair for the international CHALLENGE trial, an AGITG endorsed study of the impact of exercise on survival in patients with high-risk Stage II or III colon cancer.

“[A CHALLENGE patient] was 71 when she did Tough Mudder – after she finished three years on the CHALLENGE trial,” A/Prof Dhillon said.

“The study really emphasised for me how important it is to help people to establish what their ‘new normal’ is.

“What concerns me when we talk about ‘the new normal’ is the suggestion to people that how they are right now is the best that they can be. I really urge everyone to think about what that means when patients are approaching you – to think about the therapeutic aspects of the conversation.”

Aside from her involvement with the AGITG, A/Prof Dhillon is also Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee at the Psycho-Oncology Co-operative Research Group (PoCoG) as well as Founding Chair of the Cancer Survivorship Group at the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA).

“I grew up in northwest New South Wales, on Gamilaroi land, which is still what I’ll call my heartland. That experience of living in a rural community has shaped my approach to everything I do now.”

Asked about her drive behind her work, A/Prof Dhillon spoke about her family, including her father, who passed from metastatic cancer.

“I wouldn’t be here without my family. My experience with cancer started relatively early. [Our family’s] four boys have grown up without their grandfather, and that’s what really drives me.”

A/Prof Dhillon was presented with her award by namesake Prof John Zalcberg AO and AGITG Chair Prof Lorraine Chantrill at the 2023 AGITG Annual Scientific Meeting.

“I think the best is yet to come,” said A/Prof Dhillon.

“I will feel as though I have really achieved my goals when we have a much more diverse multi-disciplinary involvement in the group, with greater engagement with nurses, psychologists, exercise physiologists, dietitians, physiotherapists, and palliative care teams.

“The AGITG is a group you can bring new ideas to and make them happen. As an organisation, it is only as strong as its membership – so get involved, and create the change you want to see in the lives of people affected by GI cancer.”

 

Learn more about the John Zalcberg AO Award