Meet Dr Ian Katz: philanthropist, UniMelb alumni, renowned Psychiatrist and tennis aficionado

We speak to Ian, donor of the Dr Ian Katz undergraduate prize in Pharmacology, about his vibrant career – and why he wants to give back.

With a strong desire and curiosity to understand people and the human condition, Ian worked in Forensic Psychiatry at the intersection between mental health and the criminal justice system. He then went on to spend 20 years in private practice. And it’s been the capacity to do good for his patients that has stood out for Ian during his professional life.

Very simple comments and interventions have had a profound positive and enduring impact on some of my patients - well beyond what I might have predicted at the time of treatment.

Ian completed all of his tertiary studies at the University of Melbourne - his undergraduate degree, post-graduate training in Psychiatry and a Master of Medicine in Psychiatry where he investigated connections between epilepsy and mental disorders.

The importance of curiosity

Staying curious is crucial to learning and development and Ian says the human experience is a lifelong journey of learning and understanding.

“Curiosity is a precursor to fulfilling one’s potential - to see the world through different lenses encourages the quest for knowledge, understanding and fellowship with others - and it is the foundation of discovery.”

The next generation

Throughout his career, a huge part of Ian’s practice has been working with the next generation of Psychiatrists and an ongoing commitment to the future of Psychiatry. He believes students should be continually recognised and celebrated for their accomplishments and progress made during their studies.

I remember the stress and academic expectations of being a Medical student…but the joy of being invited to study medicine, to find out I had passed the course, to gain admission and get through postgraduate medicine, were the happiest and proudest moments of my life.

It’s this, coupled with the inspiration from his late Father, that led Ian to give back.

Encouraging philanthropy

While philanthropy does require some resources – Ian says to do some good and provide some time on a regular basis does not require a significant financial commitment.

“Having the honour and privilege of witnessing my father’s contribution to academia and his care for the needs of students - including myself - when he was Director of Engineering at Swinburne University - inevitably resulted in my prioritising university education and the pillars of support that are required for an academic institution to become successful,” Ian says.

Ian believes if people have had a positive experience then they will be more likely to give back in gratitude to that organisation or enterprise.

Being able to relate to the relevance of the organisation and the efforts of the individuals that are involved in that organisation - and respect what is and has been achieved by them - in this case university staff and students - I believe will go a long way in encouraging philanthropy.

The Dr Ian Katz Prize in Pharmacology

This undergraduate prize was established in 2021 and is generously funded by Ian Katz. It is awarded every year to the highest achieving student/s across four categories in the subject area of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, specifically pharmacology.

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A vibrant life

Outside of his professional life, Ian is a music buff, drum player and Professional Tennis Coach. Ian’s strong interest in literature and writing, philosophy – in particular Jewish philosophy and observance – and the academic humanities has led him to write a book focussing on theological philosophy, soon to be published.