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Eva Kolling’s impact on medical research in the Northern Sydney Local Health District & beyond

In honour of International Women’s Day and in the spirit of #EachforEqual – we are celebrating the women who make ground-breaking contributions to the science, health and medical sector. Whether it is through advancing gender equality in the field, making ground-breaking discoveries and contributions within research or providing crucial medical services to those who need it most, these women are paving the way for future generations to come.


In particular, one woman’s generosity has had a significant impact on medical research conducted within the Northern Sydney community, an impact that we continue to benefit from today.

In 1929, Mrs Eva Kolling OBE made a gift of £5,000 (which equates to over £328,972 in 2020) in memory of her late husband – Charles Kolling. This generous donation was used to fund the construction of one of the first medical research laboratories in New South Wales – the Charles Kolling Memorial Laboratory. Throughout her life, Eva continued to have ongoing engagement with the research laboratory and as a result, developed a keen curiosity and passion for the advancement of medical research.  Upon her death in 1941, Eva generously left a legacy gift in her will to continue to support the development of the medical research facility.

Old Kolling Medical Research Institute

Charles Kolling Memorial Laboratory

In her thank-you note after the completion of the first laboratory Eva wrote:

“To these people, I tender my most sincere thanks because not only will my husband’s name be known forever, but many lives will be spared, and humanity assisted generally.”

What started as a single laboratory has since expanded into a fully-fledged medical research institute – The Kolling Institute of Medical Research – focused on answering some of the greatest health and medical challenges facing our world today. As a joint partnership between The University of Sydney and the Northern Sydney Local Health District, the Kolling Institute will be celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and is considered to be the oldest medical research institute in New South Wales. The Institute is at the forefront of research and prides itself on turning scientific discoveries into medical realities in clinical practice across a wide variety of different areas including Ageing related diseases, Cancer, Cardiology, Musculoskeletal diseases, Neuroscience, Renal, and the list goes on. The Institute continues to advance and in May 2019 Professor Carolyn Sue AM (Director of Neurogenetics at Royal North Shore Hospital and Director of the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research) was appointed as the new Director of Research for the Institute – making Professor Sue the first female Director in the Institute’s history. 

Modern Kolling Medical Research Institute

Modern Kolling Institute of Medical Research

While we all share a responsibility to champion inclusion, embrace diversity and actively advance equality in our relevant sectors, we can’t help but be extra grateful for those in the community who dedicate their lives to creating a brighter future for all. This is exactly what our hospital and research staff within the Northern Sydney Local Health District are doing on a daily basis – focusing their efforts to ensure that they are providing high-quality patient services to the community when they need it most and looking to the future to create cutting-edge treatment options. In this age of globalisation where innovation is developing rapidly, and the world is facing unprecedented health challenges like never before, the need for investment in our medical services and research facilities is becoming increasingly important.

It took incredible foresight, generosity, and passion for Eva Kolling to make the philanthropic investment that she did (especially during a time when such charity was unheard of). As a community, we should be grateful for this act of philanthropic leadership as without her gift the Kolling Institute of Medical Research may not have ever existed and been able to touch the millions of lives that it does today.

Eva Kolling’s gift laid the foundation for medical research for generations to come and truly embodies the ethos behind this year’s International Women’s Day theme – Each For Equal.

If you would like to support one of our services within the Northern Sydney Local Health District (including Royal North Shore, Ryde and Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospitals and the Kolling Institute of Medical Research) please click ‘Donate’ at the top of this page.


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