It is with great sadness that I learned this month of the tragic passing of leading Australian rheumatologist, past-President of the Australian & New Zealand Bone & Mineral Society (ANZBMS) and inaugural Medical Director of Osteoporosis Australia, Professor Phil Sambrook. Phil passed away in peace at his Kangaroo Valley retreat with his loving wife and children beside him, following a diagnosis of ocular melanoma four years ago, which later manifested as secondary liver and bone metastases.

Over the past decade I have launched many World Osteoporosis Days and other bone health projects, working closely with Phil in his role as Medical Director of Osteoporosis Australia. Phil was the ultimate professional – incredibly media savvy, technically brilliant, compassionate, fearless and always willing to give of his time.

I distinctly recall working on a project with Phil in 2007, for which he expressly requested my assistance. Together we issued a public condemnation of the ABC TV’s 7:30 Report’s irresponsible and factually incorrect story, featuring Phil, which had aired on the use of bisphosphonates – a class of medications designed to treat bone diseases such as osteoporosis, and in much stronger doses, in cancer to prevent the complications when it spreads to the bone.

Concerned by public reaction to the story, Phil, who was President of the ANZBMS at the time, joined forces with Osteoporosis Australia to set the record straight on a number of factual errors cited by the program, which had the potential to cause serious alarm, unrest and adversely affect many Australians taking bisphosphonates to prevent osteoporosis and fractures.

Suffice to say, the 7:30 Report issued a public apology to Phil and provided him with the opportunity to set the record straight by dedicating an entire program to the topic the following week. Phil was vindicated, for he had won this epic battle and I had been personally instrumental in helping him do so.

In response to Phil’s passing, and in recognition of his life-time commitment to research and improving bone health, for which he won an Order of Australia Medal, Osteoporosis Australia and the ANZBMS have set up the Professor Philip Sambrook Memorial Award – an annual award for an outstanding young researcher, to allow them to present their research at a prestigious international conference and as part of the annual ANZBMS scientific meeting. The fund aims to raise $250,000 AUD and to be granted to a recipient annually, in perpetuity. To donate to this appeal, click here.

On a personal note, I wish to thank Phil for sharing his extensive knowledge of, and passion for, bone health with me. His commitment to this area was unsurpassed. May he rest in peace.