Scholarship builds on research legacy

The McCarthy family decided now was the time to help budding scientists, allowing final-year veterinary student Chez Viall to fast-track her interest in equine fertility.

The grief of losing a child lasts a lifetime.

When Dr Neville McCarthy AO and his late wife Margaret McCarthy lost their youngest son, they decided to fund a scholarship in his name. It was their way of honouring him and ensuring that his spirit was memorialised.

Dr Robert Neville McCarthy was a talented veterinary scientist, newly married and excited about his future when he was taken by cancer in 1993. His parents believed that a scholarship fund would be the best way of honouring his life.

“We felt it was better to make bequests while we were alive rather than wait until we died,” explains Dr McCarthy, a medical scientist and one of the founders of Australia’s biotech industry.

“This has kept our family actively involved in research support. The original purpose was to enable students in the later years of the veterinary science course to gain some insight into the nature of research through participation in Faculty research projects.

“To that end, two Summer Scholarships were funded annually. Over time the Endowment Fund has grown to the extent that after 19 years there is now the additional capacity to award two travel grants each year to assist PhD students to attend conferences and meet with other researchers in their fields.”

Dr Chez Viall turned 30 in 2018, the same age Dr McCarthy’s son was when he passed away. They also share a more tangible bond because of the scholarship she received in his name during her final year of veterinary studies at the University of Melbourne.

It allowed her to travel back twice to her native New Zealand to conduct research on equine mesenchymal stem cells, which she hopes to use in the future to treat infertile mares.

Gavin McCarthy, Chez Viall and Neil McCarthy
Dr Chez Viall (centre) with Dr Neville McCarthy's sons, Gavin (left) and Neil McCarthy (right).

She says the scholarship was a huge boost to her ultimate goal of having one hand on a horse and the other at a lab bench.

It allowed her to forge relationships with some of New Zealand’s leading reproductive scientists, people she hopes to work with in the future.

Dr Viall took the long road to veterinary medicine. She graduated with a science degree from the University of Auckland and went on to do a PhD in women’s reproductive immunology.

At some point she decided her real interest was in veterinary science and embarked on the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Melbourne.

Dr McCarthy, who turned 90 in 2019, knows a little about switching career tracks. The onset of deafness from otosclerosis in his first year in medicine led him to relinquish clinical practice in 1968.

A change of career to the medical division of a multinational pharmaceutical company, completing an MBA and international experience in research and development management, led to an illustrious career as Managing Director of the Commonwealth Services Laboratory (CSL) for 17 years.

In 1984, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service of a high degree, particularly as director of the CSL, and for service to the community.

Dr McCarthy met his wife, Margaret, on the train on the way to school when they were both aged 15. She graduated from the University of Melbourne with qualifications in music and education and taught for many years.

In association with two of her musical colleagues, who were leading string music teachers, a Karmel Commission grant was obtained in the early 1970s to establish a string music library within the Victorian Education Department to foster the growth and development of string music orchestras within schools and the community.

The couple were married for three days shy of 62 years, until Margaret’s death three years ago. They had five children, a number of whom are alumni of the University.

Associate Professor Gavan McCarthy is Director of the eScholarships Research Centre at the University. Neil McCarthy, is a pioneer in leading innovations in the use of natural resources. Elizabeth is a woodwind musician and Jennifer an environmental scientist.

Dr Viall, who is now working as an intern at an equine hospital in New Zealand, says she has been privileged to meet members of the McCarthy family.

They have a shared love of science, unlike her own family who are in property and business.

“I love what I do and in the future I hope to be able to do some more research as well as my clinical work.

“My path is clear ahead of me now.”

You can learn more about the Dr Robert Neville McCarthy Scholarship here.

The Faculty’s success depends on its ability to attract and retain the brightest and most passionate students, regardless of economic background. To support the next generation of exceptional veterinary professionals through scholarship funding please visit our veterinary scholarships and research support page or call +61 3 8344 2071.