The 2022 Ryman Prize winner hopes his success will lead to more resources being invested into old age research and fighting ageism.
The Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand announced on December 8 that Professor Perminder Sachdev was the eighth winner of the $250,000 Ryman Prize.
Professor Sachdev is a world-leading researcher, academic leader, teacher and clinician who has dedicated his long career to understanding the causes and treatment of psychiatric disorders including dementia.
The award recognises Professor Sachdev’s 35-year career, which began in New Zealand at Auckland’s Kingseat Psychiatric Hospital in the 1980s.
Reading his citation at an awards ceremony at Malvina Major village in Wellington, Prime Minister Ardern described Professor Sachdev as a deserving winner.
“Perminder Sachdev is an outstanding academic and clinician – and his work has had a profound impact around the world.
“His colleagues describe him as a superstar who has the ability to do the work of three people at once – and still be ahead of the curve to find where research should go next.’’
The Prime Minister said she enjoyed awarding the prize each year because it gave her a chance to learn about the latest research into the issues facing older New Zealanders.
“I value this as a prize that values older people so much.”
“It’s hard ageing, we want to make it easier, we want to make sure older people are valued and are supported.
About the Ryman Prize:
The Ryman Prize is administered by the Ryman Foundation. The annual prize consists of a $250,000 grant which is awarded by an international jury to the best invention, idea, research concept or initiative that has enhanced quality of life for older people.
It is the world’s richest prize of its type and was established to create the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for people working in the field of the health of older people.
The inaugural prize was won by Gabi Hollows, the founding director of The Fred Hollows Foundation. Gabi Hollows set up the charity with her late husband Professor Fred Hollows, and together they worked tirelessly to tackle the problem of preventable blindness in older people in the developing world.
The 2016 Ryman Prize was won by Professor Henry Brodaty. Professor Brodaty is a pioneer in diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The 2017 Ryman Prize was won by Professor Peter St George-Hyslop, a geneticist and researcher based at Cambridge and the University of Toronto. Peter spent 30 years researching neuro-degenerative diseases, focusing on discovering the key genes and proteins that cause cells to degenerate.
Japanese inventor and technologist Professor Takanori Shibata won the 2018 Ryman Prize for his tenacity in pursing new technology to help ease the burden of older people suffering from dementia.
The 2019 Ryman Prize was won by Canadian neurosurgeon Dr Michael Fehlings. Dr Fehlings won the prize for his pioneering work for older people suffering from Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy (DCM), a degenerative neck compression problem which is the most common form of injury to the spinal cord.
Finnish academic and researcher Professor Miia Kivipelto won the 2020 Ryman Prize. The award recognised Professor Kivipelto’s more than 20 years of research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
In 2021 geriatrician, researcher, academic and anti-ageism campaigner Professor Kenneth Rockwood from Novia Scotia, Canada.
Ryman Healthcare Group Chief Executive Richard Umbers congratulated Professor Sachdev on his fascinating insights into ageing.
Professor Sachdev dedicated his win to the staff and students at the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing at the University of New South Wales and the neuropsychiatric institute at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney.
“I humbly accept this prize on behalf of numerous colleagues and students and friends who have helped me along this journey. Foremost I thank my beautiful wife Jagdeep who has been a constant support and inspiration for all these years. She, like your prime minister, is a super woman.’’
He hoped bureaucrats and politicians would take notice of the award, and the need to focus more on dementia research and fighting ageism.
“We’ve tackled sexism and racism – now’s the time to take on ageism. Recent research found that one in two people are ageist.
“We have to bring together govt civil society academia media and the private sector to improve the lives of older people. It is heartening to see so many influential people in New Zealand come here today to support this. The message is getting out there.’’
The Ryman Prize was established in 2015. It is an annual $250,000 international award for the best work carried out anywhere in the world that has enhanced quality of life for older people. It is the richest prize of its kind in the world.
The Ryman Prize attracts a world-class field of entrants each year. Each winner is chosen by an international jury of experts from across many disciplines.
About Perminder Sachdev:
Perminder Sachdev is Scientia Professor of Neuropsychiatry at the University of New South Wales Sydney (UNSW).
In 2012 he co-founded the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) at UNSW and is codirector of the centre. He is also Clinical Director of the Neuropsychiatric Institute, Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, Australia.
He graduated from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi in 1978 and completed his MD in Psychiatry in 1983 at that institution before migrating to New Zealand and trained in Psychiatry at Kingseat and Auckland Hospitals in Auckland. He became a naturalised New Zealand citizen in 1986.
While in New Zealand, he studied some ethnopsychological concepts (mana-tapu-noa and whakama) in Māori culture from a clinical perspective and examined the Māori elder-patient relationship as a paradigm for psychotherapy.
When he moved to Sydney in 1987, his focus shifted to Neuropsychiatry, and he went on to establish himself as a leader in this field.
Professor Sachdev is a past president of the International Neuropsychiatric Association and inaugural Chair of the Section of Neuropsychiatry of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. He is also past-president of the International College of Geriatric Psychoneuropharmacology.
He helped from the Tourette Syndrome Association of Australia in 1989 and has served as medical adviser since then. He is former Chief Medical Adviser to Alzheimer’s Australia. He has served on several international committees and recently led the drafting of the Dementia Research Blueprint for the World Health Organisation which will serve as a template for the field in the years to come.
He is also a prolific researcher and author, who has published over 1000 scientific articles. His books include The Yipping Tiger and Other Tales from the Neuropsychiatric Clinic, Akathisia and Restless Legs, Secondary Schizophrenia and a poetry volume A migrant’s musings and other offerings to an adopted land.
Prof Sachdev was NSW Scientist of the Year for Biomedical Sciences (2010) and appointed Member of the Order of Australia (2011) for service to medical research in the field of neuropsychiatry.
The Ryman Prize jury consists of:
- Professor Brian Draper, Conjoint Professor in the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales.
- Professor Sarah Harper CBE, Director and Clore Professor of Gerontology at the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing.
- Professor Tim Wilkinson, consulting geriatrician and Associate Dean of Medical Education, Otago School of Medicine.
- Dr Naoko Muramatsu, health and ageing research specialist, University of Illinois at Chicago.
- Professor Erwin Neher, Nobel Laureate and Director and Scientific Member at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, University of Göttingen, Germany. Dr Neher is a biophysicist who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1991.
- Dr David Kerr, Fellow and Past President of the New Zealand Medical Association, Fellow with Distinction of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.