Vale Emeritus Professor Rick Speare AM

@JCU Vale Emeritus Professor Rick Speare AM

Vale Emeritus Professor Rick Speare AM, PhD, MBBS(Hons), BVSc(Hons), DVSc, FAFPHM, FACTM,  MANZCVS

rick speare

This is a sad time as we honour the passing of a great researcher, teacher and humanitarian, a person who made an important contribution to the health of people and wildlife in the tropical world and beyond as well as to James Cook University.

Professor Rick Speare obtained honours degrees in veterinary medicine and human medicine and worked as a clinician in both fields. He was awarded a PhD by JCU for work on the human gut parasite strongyloides, a neglected tropical disease that particularly affects remote Aboriginal communities. He was a specialist public health physician and became an internationally recognised leader in neglected tropical diseases among humans. Equally, he made important contributions to wildlife health. His higher doctorate of veterinary science was awarded by the University of Queensland for his research on amphibian disease.

Rick commenced at JCU in 1988 as a Research Fellow, before his appointment as an Associate Professor in 1991, when he took up the role of Director of the Anton Breinl Centre for Tropical Health and Medicine. He went on to serve the University in various capacities, including as Deputy Director of the Department of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and later as Head of the then School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences. Rick played a pivotal role in the establishment at JCU of the WHO Collaboration Centre for the Control of Lymphatic Filariasis in 1996.

At JCU, Rick made a seminal contribution to workforce development in public health and tropical medicine. He taught and supervised thousands of masters and doctoral students at JCU, as well as training hundreds through capacity building workshops in low income settings. He not only formed professional partnerships with the people with whom he worked, but enduring friendships among many. Rick had the ability to see potential in people and supported them to realise their potential.

His research work spanned many countries, most notably Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the wider Pacific, South East Asia and South Africa. He played a key role in high-level responses to various emerging pandemic threats, as well as broader parasitic, ectoparasitic and infectious diseases over many years. He was highly regarded in the community for his work on trialling more effective treatment of scabies and head lice. He was a senior member of the team that was awarded the CSIRO Medal for the discovery of the fungal disease that was leading to the world-wide epidemic killing frog populations. Rick published more than 250 papers in peer reviewed journals, as well as four books and 25 book chapters.

Rick retired from JCU in 2012 and was awarded the title of Emeritus Professor for his long and distinguished career in multiple fields of endeavour. Following retirement, he and his wife Kerry Kelly moved to a property on the Atherton Tablelands. He continued to teach and consult widely including with the World Health Organinsation. His recent focus has been on building research capacity strengthening at Atoifi Adventist Hospital, Malaita, in the Solomon Islands.

Rick was much loved and is survived by his wife Kerry, three sons, two daughters and five grandchildren. Our thoughts are with them at this sad time.

A funeral service will be held on Thursday 16th June at 2pm at the Guilfoyle Funeral Chapel, 3 Nasser Rd, Atherton, Queensland. This will be followed by a wake at the nearby International Club, 60 Kennedy Highway, Atherton, from 4pm.

At the request of the family, video of the funeral service will be streamed to JCU campuses in Townsville and Cairns and elsewhere on request for those who would like to share in commemorating his life and passing. If you would like to join from other locations, please contact the Division of Tropical Health and Medicine on

Lecture theatres have been booked at the Townsville and Cairns campuses for this purpose:

·         Townsville - Building 45 Room 002

·         Cairns - Building B1 Room 031

The Division of Tropical Health and Medicine has organised refreshments at both sites to follow the ceremony. If you will be attending the refreshments, would you please RSVP, advising the location, for catering purposes as soon as possible to

In accordance with his family’s wishes, a Rick Speare Memorial Fund has been established in his name, with funds raised to support continuation of his work in the Solomon Islands (see Donations are preferred to flowers and are tax deductible.