Rob Johnston Award


The Rob Johnston Award


An Award of $500 is available for the best presentation at the annual scientific meeting by a registrar or trainee. The award is judged at the meeting on the content and presentation. The award is a memorial award to Rob Johnston

About Rob Johnston

Rob Johnston was a 20 year old University student who sustained complete C4 quadriplegia from a football injury. He was a talented 6 foot 4 inch Aussie Rules ruckman playing for St Peter’s Old Collegians. His freak injury occurred at a boundary throw in which he contested without making body contact with the opposing ruckman. On wet ground he simply lost his footing, landed flat on his back without hitting his head and experienced immediate numbness and loss of movement in his arms and legs. He was admitted to the RAH where xrays demonstrated a C4/C5 dislocation which was reduced within an hour of the injury but with no neural recovery. His spinal cord injury was complete and he developed a series of complications including bilateral vagus nerve paralysis with loss of speech and aspiration leading to the need for ventilation. He died 3 months after his injury. During his stay in hospital staff, friends and family were deeply affected by the courageous and uncomplaining way in which he accepted his fate. Throughout his ordeal he remained concerned about others.

Rob Johnston was an inpatient at the Royal Adelaide Hospital during the last meeting of the Facet Club held at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in 1989. It was during this meeting that the decision was made to form the Spine Society of Australia. On his death Rob Johnston’s parents bequeathed a sum of money for spinal research. With the agreement of the Johnston family it was decided the best way to use this money was in the form of an award to encourage young spinal researchers. During the 3rd ASM of the Society that was held in Adelaide in 1992 with international guests from USA, UK and France, the Rob Johnston Award was presented in person by Rob Johnston’s father who had been present during much of that morning’s scientific session. Mr. Johnston made a thoughtful impressive speech in which he congratulated Members on the quality of the research presented, thanked surgeons for the work they do, and encouraged members to continue their important research on the spine.

By Professor Robert Fraser

Royal Adelaide Hospital

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Prize winner: 
Dr Francis Brooks