LIFE'S WORK: Former University of Southern Queensland professor John Grant-Thomson AM was a finalist in last month's Queensland Senior Australian of the Year Award.
LIFE'S WORK: Former University of Southern Queensland professor John Grant-Thomson AM was a finalist in last month's Queensland Senior Australian of the Year Award. COURTESY USQ

Professor's inventive life has changed the world

THEY say everyone has a story to tell, but former University of Southern Queensland professor John Grant-Thomson AM, a finalist in last month's Queensland Senior Australian of the Year award, has more to tell than most.

The award recognises people aged 65 and over who continue to achieve and contribute to the nation.

Professor Grant-Thomson served in the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Army Medical Corps and spent three decades as a reservist.

He was a member of the NASA team that established the Toowoomba Cooby Creek tracking station that researched satellite communication systems, culminating in the moon landing.

He worked at the university - even before it was a university - for more than 30 years, starting in 1970 as a data processing technician before increasing study eventually brought him to the title of Professor of Medical Engineering.

But it is his work inventing the world-leading Mansell Infant Retrieval System (now Neocot) in 2000 for which he will go down in history.

It began, not surprisingly given his Defence Force background, with the idea of a Mobile Intensive Care Retrieval Facility - a stretcher with its own power and life-saving features - which he developed to bring hospital-standard care to the frontline in the 1990s, but only 10 were made.

The concept was then reworked after extensive consultation with doctors in neonatal and paediatric units, and Neocot, a heated capsule surrounded by monitoring and resuscitation equipment, was developed allowing a baby to be transported under intensive-care conditions to a specialist hospital.

It is used to move more than 300 premature or critically ill babies throughout Australia each month, and is now also used in Europe, with inquiries fielded from the UK and USA.

"USQ has remained involved with the Neocot system over many years, with more than 30 final-year engineering students undertaking work-experience programs with Toowoomba manufacturer BAC Technologies," USQ Vice-Chancellor Geraldine Mackenzie said.

BAC currently employs five full-time USQ graduate engineers on the project, keeping the device at the forefront of medical technology.

Professor Grant-Thomson has said it is a great example of what can be achieved through academic and industry collaboration, with the strong sense of community involved in working in Toowoomba leading to long-term staff commitment.

Professor Mackenzie commended Professor Grant-Thomson on his ongoing dedication to the community, saying he had "forged a legacy based on service and innovation".

The Queensland Senior of the Year Award went to speech pathologist and bionics advocate Dr Dimity Dornan AO, who established Hear and Say 25 years ago to help deaf children learn to listen and speak using bionic technologies like the cochlear implant.


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