Banks strikes gold with coveted AMA medal

Professor Emily Banks, ANU
1 August 2022

A prominent public health physician and epidemiologist from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University (ANU) who has shaped public discourse on e-cigarettes by highlighting the dangers they pose has been honoured by the peak professional body for doctors in Australia. 

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has awarded Professor Emily Banks AM with the AMA Gold Medal - the highest honour bestowed by the medical body - for exceptional contributions to medicine and public health.

Earlier this year, Professor Banks and her ANU colleagues published a major report that reviewed the emerging global evidence on e-cigarettes. It found use of nicotine e-cigarettes, or vapes, carry significant harms -- particularly among young people -- and could lead to a range of adverse health outcomes, including poisoning, seizures, trauma, burns and lung injury.

The report also found young non-smokers who vape are three times as likely to take up smoking compared to those who don't vape.

The findings were widely reported in the Australian media landscape and sparked a national discussion about the dangers of e-cigarettes and the growing uptake of vapes among young Australians.

Outgoing AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid commended Professor Banks for her important and timely research into e-cigarettes, which has been conducted in the face of fierce opposition and growing political pressure by the tobacco industry.

"As the tobacco industry has unscrupulously marketed to children, teenagers and young people, Professor Banks and her research team at ANU have provided high-quality data the community, doctors and policymakers need to make truly informed decisions," Dr Khorshid said.

"Time and again, Professor Banks has provided evidence to support action to safeguard health, and vaping is no exception.

"Professor Banks' work has contributed to Australia's world-unique prescription-only model for e-cigarettes and clearly demonstrates the need to keep these highly addictive products out of our schools."

Professor Banks and team's internationally recognised research into e-cigarettes has been integral in educating the public about the risks of vaping and has provided the framework for governments across Australia and overseas to make informed policy decisions around the use of e-cigarettes. 

Professor Banks said it's an incredible honour to be recognised by doctors working on the frontline.

"Public health is the ultimate team sport and this award pays tribute to everyone who has generously shared their experiences to help others, and everyone in the community who takes steps to protect their health and that of other people," she said. 

"Whether it's by quitting smoking, wearing a seatbelt, getting vaccinated or some other action - you are the heroes."

In 2021, Professor Banks was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for her achievements and service to medical research and education. She is also a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.

Professor Banks' research focuses on cardiovascular disease, cancer, tobacco control, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and healthy ageing. Her work revolves around using large-scale evidence to identify solutions aimed at improving health outcomes at an individual and population level.

Read more about previous Gold Medal recipients on the AMA website.