Professor S. Bruce Dowton

The fifth Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie University,
Professor S. Bruce Dowton is a paediatrician, clinical geneticist, molecular biologist, researcher and academic.

Professor Dowton has served as a senior medical executive at a range of universities, healthcare institutions and consulting organisations. He also served as a paediatrician at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, and as Clinical Professor of Paediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

Biography of Professor S. Bruce Dowton

Vice-Chancellor and President

Professor Dowton joined the University in September 2012. During his first year he led a highly consultative process to develop a long-term strategic framework for the University, establishing an ethos of service and engagement at the heart of its learning, teaching and research activities. The framework has subsequently enabled a dramatic improvement in research performance, a synthesis of traditional and technological learning and teaching activities, deeper relationships with corporate and industry partners, significantly enhanced philanthropic giving and a series of multi-million-dollar capital works on campus. Dowton’s ability to clarify complexity, and highly engaging personal style, have since become hallmarks of his Vice-Chancellorship.

He has published articles on a wide range of topics in peer-reviewed academic publications, and has held Visiting Professorial and External Examiner appointments at several universities including the University of Edinburgh, Columbia University in New York, the University of Tromsø in Norway, Hong Kong University, as well as institutions in the People’s Republic of China.

Additionally, Professor Dowton spends much of his time outside the University in educational philanthropic and community engagements. Currently, he serves:

  • as a trustee on the Board of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
  • as Chairman of Open Universities Australia.
  • as a member of Asia Society Australia.

Professor Dowton was born in the far central-western New South Wales town of Ivanhoe and raised in Dubbo. He was the first in his family to go to university.

Professor Dowton was awarded the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (with Honours) in 1980 from the University of Sydney. He completed his postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Medical Centre, Boston, where he held clinical and research fellowships in paediatrics and cell biology. He also holds a doctorate of medicine for his work in cell biology from the University of Sydney.  His work as a laboratory scientist focused on regulation of the expression of genes for an important class of blood proteins.

Between 1985 and 1998, he held a number of positions at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri USA. In 1993 he was appointed Associate Dean for Medical Education, and in 1996 he became Associate Vice-Chancellor. During this time, he was Director of the Division of Medical Genetics at St Louis Children’s Hospital, leading a revitalisation of the clinical, research and education dimensions of the division.

As Associate Dean and Associate Vice-Chancellor of Washington University, he led many significant developments in educational programs for medical students, graduate medical education, and continuing medical education programs.

In 1998 he was appointed Dean of the School of Medicine and Professor of Paediatrics at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. During his tenure, the university implemented new educational programs, planned major new facilities, strengthened graduate-student education, doubled the amount of income from research, and developed strong ties with the health system. Among the many initiatives undertaken in that role, he led a complete reformulation of the medical school teaching program, a process that delivered an entirely innovative curriculum characterised by integration across three phases and a novel system of portfolio based assessment.

He also launched the Rural Clinical Schools Initiative to help address the problems associated with the recruitment and retention of physicians to serve in regional, rural and remote Australia. The success of this program was echoed around Australia so that all medical schools in Australia now have rural teaching enterprises with many of them based around the organisational and education models crafted at the University of New South Wales. He was appointed Professor Emeritus in 2005.

In 2001 Professor Dowton, at the invitation of the NSW State Health Minister, established and chaired the Medical Education and Training Council, a body chartered to completely reorganise oversight of postgraduate clinical education programs across some 60 hospitals.

From 2002 to 2004, he was chair of the Committee of Deans of Australian Medical Schools (CDAMS) and led a major organisational repositioning to ensure CDAMS emerged as the peak body representing medical schools in Australia.

Returning to Boston in 2007, Professor Dowton held a variety of leadership roles at Harvard Medical International and Partners Harvard Medical International between 2007 and 2012, most notably as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. In addition to his management and leadership activities Professor Dowton led teams in projects that:

  • developed a national chronic disease strategy for a North African country
  • guided development of medical schools and university governance in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kazakhstan
  • integrated health and higher education planning for a satellite CBD in an Australian capital city
  • planned clinical programs in hospitals aspiring to emerge as regional leaders
  • reviewed a national health system in the Caribbean.

Download Professor S. Bruce Dowton biography here