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Professor Nathan Bartlett honoured to be Newcastle Citizen of the Year

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Professor Nathan Bartlett has extolled the virtues of “a group effort” as one of the reasons behind his Newcastle Citizen of the Year accolade in 2024.

The dedicated medical researcher collected the top gong at the Digital Library on Monday 22 January for his incredible work in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

Teenager Olivia Hughes was named the 2024 Young Citizen of the Year for her selfless charitable nature and fundraising efforts while long-time health advocate Professor Julie Byles took home Senior Citizen of the Year.

The 2024 Community Group of the Year went to the LIVEfree Project.

Professor Bartlett played an integral role in the development of a nasal spray designed to prevent respiratory viral diseases such as COVID-19.

The atomizer, which is currently in clinical trials, is designed for high-risk groups such as immune-compromised patients and the elderly for whom vaccination may be less effective.

“I’m honoured to accept this award on behalf of my team and those key collaborators without whom much of this work would not have been possible,” the viral immunology professor and lecturer at the University of Newcastle said.

“I have always been interested in respiratory viruses and my research took on a new urgency after a global pandemic was declared in March 2020.

“It has been a privilege to undertake research at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and collaborate with many outstanding researchers to work towards lessening the burden that viruses place on the global community.”

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Professor Bartlett’s selection as Citizen of the Year recognised his ongoing commitment to improving health outcomes for others.

“His pioneering medical research will save lives,” she explained.

“As new variants of COVID-19 continue to make people very unwell, his role in developing an effective treatment particularly to help those in our community at the greatest risk of severe disease and death remains vital.

“He has spent countless hours educating the community and industry bodies such as the National Asthma Council to better understand and cope with COVID-19 and respiratory viruses and dedicates his time to teaching and mentoring the next generation of medical professionals and biomedical researchers.

“The Citizen of the Year award is a fitting honour for his more than two decades of service to medical science and his care and commitment to the wellbeing of our community.”

As a dedicated member of the Nobbys SLSC since the age of five, 17-year-old Hughes teaches modified Nippers to children with disabilities and regularly volunteers with sporting events such as triathlons and surf competitions.

After losing a childhood friend to cancer, the empathic teen began holding monthly craft sessions for sick kids and their families at Ronald McDonald House and is a passionate fundraiser for charities including Dr Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and SurfAid’s Make a Wave Challenge.

Professor Byles has inspired many young researchers and PhD candidates during her 20 years as the co-director of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health.

After retiring in early 2023, she became the president of the Hunter Ageing Alliance and has since lent her skills to amplifying the voices and needs of the over 60s in Newcastle.

The LIVEfree Project earned recognition for its work to elevate wellbeing and reduce loneliness in the community.

Led by Chris Jones from its Adamstown base, the group was congratulated on becoming a trusted source of support for community members who have faced trauma and hardship.

It was also acknowledged for its extensive school-based initiatives including the Smile and Thrive Dental Program and the Shine Bright Program, which empowered children to face adversity while equipping them with vital life skills.

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