In the final years of the 20th century Professor Thomas Faunce was already turning his sharp mind and incredible intellect to the challenges of the 21st.
His PhD, submitted in 2000, tackled the governance of the human genome.
In the face of new technology providing ever more information about the genome, Professor Faunce argued for a regulatory system based on “medical loyalty” – what he described as “an intuitive and emotional commitment to relief of individual patient suffering”.
For this work, Professor Faunce was awarded the prestigious JG Crawford Prize; a highly-competitive honour bestowed each year to only a few graduate students most deserving of recognition for the quality of their graduate work.
Professor Faunce’s PhD offered a glimpse into the deep compassion and care he would bring to all his academic work.
Shortly after graduating with his PhD in 2001, Professor Faunce commenced his long and distinguished career at The Australian National University (ANU) as a lecturer in 2003.
Sadly, Professor Faunce passed suddenly but peacefully on Sunday 7 July 2019. His passing is an immense loss for ANU and all our community.
Professor Faunce was truly eclectic.
He was an expert in health law, bioethics, nanotechnology, the environment and international trade, and held joint appointments in the ANU Medical School and ANU College of Law. Beyond campus, Professor Faunce also practised medicine and law.
The winner of five Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grants, his research reflects his incredibly diverse background and was at the leading edge of health, science and law. His research tackled some of our biggest challenges, including climate change and food security.
Professor Faunce’s most recent ARC project explored how nanotechnology could help solve the great public health and environmental challenges of our time. This included examining how artificial photosynthesis could be used to enable every road, house and vehicle on the Earth’s surface to make renewable fuel and fertiliser.
Professor Faunce was also a beloved teacher of students at the ANU College of Law, passing on his considerable knowledge, expertise and passion to generations of future lawyers and medical practitioners.
This includes the 20-year multidisciplinary course, Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights, which most recently included a moot trial at the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court with law and medical students and is considered an institution of the University.
Professor Faunce was one of the founding faculty of the ANU Medical School and was instrumental in designing, delivering and leading the School’s Professionalism and Leadership theme.
In reflecting on Professor Faunce, Professor Imogen Mitchell said: “His long-time passion for politics and human rights ensured that his students both in medicine and law did not have dull experiences.
“His zest for life was palpable and his love for ensuring his son had the best childhood was wonderful to watch.
“Professor Faunce leaves an enormous hole in our Medical School and he will be much, much missed by many.”
Of Professor Faunce, Dean of the ANU College of Law, Professor Sally Wheeler, described him as “an inspirational teacher and a fine academic”.
“He was a deeply compassionate man, a quality which he brought to his work in law and medicine. Many colleagues have benefited from his mentorship, guidance and generosity of spirit,” she said.
Professor Faunce was born in Canberra and his association with ANU is long and significant.
He first graduated from the University with honours in arts and law in 1982. After completing his medical degree at the University of Newcastle in 1992, he returned to campus to complete his PhD.
Proving his incredible versatility and talent, Professor Faunce also forged a successful career in the realm of law and health. He was a judge’s associate to Justice Lionel Murphy of the High Court of Australia, and also worked as a solicitor at some of Australia's top legal firms, including Mallesons and Freehills.
Professor Faunce practised medicine in Australia’s largest intensive care unit based in Melbourne, and was also a junior doctor and intensive care registrar in Wagga Wagga and Canberra.
When telling the ANU community the sad news of Professor Faunce’s passing, Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said: “Tom represents all the very best qualities of our great university.
“Research that forges new knowledge. Teaching that empowers and inspires. Outreach and engagement that shapes society for the better. He was always sharp of mind, and did not shy from asking the most complex and challenging questions; more often than not developing robust and potent answers.
“He was an incredible and important part of our community for almost four decades. We thank Tom for everything he has given us. He leaves a powerful legacy. Most of all, he will be missed dearly.”
Professor Faunce is survived by his wife, Dr Rose Faunce, and their son Blake, and our thoughts are with them.