Dr Cherrell Hirst AO - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Dr Cherrell Hirst AO

Honorary Doctorate (February 2018)

Dr Cherrell Hirst AO was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in February 2018 in recognition of her lifetime commitment to education, women’s health and advocacy, and professional leadership.

Dr Cherrell Hirst AO is a health pioneer, business trailblazer, doctor, researcher, international role model, and an inspiration to many.


Dr Hirst was born in Kilkivan, a small country town west of Gympie. After completing her medical training, she quickly developed a professional interest in women’s health. From 1984 to 2001 she served as the director of the Wesley Breast Clinic, where she gained national and international recognition for her work in progressing techniques for the early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. In 1997, she founded the Australasian Society for Breast Disease, a multidisciplinary group committed to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and research of breast disease. As a result of this pioneering work, she was named Queenslander of the Year in 1995, and an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1998. In 2003, she was awarded the Australian Government Centenary Medal.


Over the course of her career, Dr Hirst has combined her interests in health research and leadership with a range of governance roles. In 2005, she conducted an independent review of maternity services in Queensland on behalf of Queensland Health. She is a current board member of the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Board, Bolton Clarke, and the Queensland Tropical Health Alliance, and is the Chair of the Advisory Board for the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience. She also holds numerous directorships in the biotechnology sector, bringing her unique combination of medical and governance knowledge to companies dedicated to improving human health. In recognition of these exemplary achievements in board leadership, in 2015 Dr Hirst received the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ Gold Medal.
In addition, Dr Hirst has maintained a lifelong commitment to the power of education. In 1994, she was appointed Chancellor of QUT – the first woman to hold this role at a Queensland University. She served as Chancellor until 2004, and as the Chair of the Brisbane Girls Grammar School Board of Trustees from 1996 to 2006 – both honorary roles she held while working full time as a doctor.


During her time at QUT she established the Dr Cherrell Hirst Learning Potential Fund Scholarship, which aims to encourage disadvantaged and low-income female students to undertake an undergraduate degree in health, science or justice.
She also served on the Sunshine Coast University College steering committee, and led QUT’s sponsorship of the new regional university that eventually became USC. Without knowing it, the many thousands of USC students and graduates who have walked through our doors over the past 20 years owe Dr Hirst a debt of gratitude for her commitment to regional education, and her passion and advocacy for the opportunities a university like ours can create.