Magnificent support for cancer research

Barbara Hughes honours her dear friend through the Margaret Fay Fuller Scholarship.

Back in 1950, Barbara Hughes won the title of Most Graceful Physical Culture Girl of Australia. She also played competitive tennis and golf, and taught ballet and ‘physical culture’ at schools. She is an avid cross-stitcher (having won several prizes at the Royal Adelaide Show) and has been an intrepid traveller throughout her life – meeting her husband Billy on the ski slopes of Switzerland in the 1960s.

Today, 91-year-old Barbara has shown her support for cancer research through a generous donation of $115,000 to establish the Margaret Fay Fuller Scholarship at Flinders University, named in honour of her good friend.


In the late 1990s Barbara was introduced to Fay over lunch and the pair instantly became good friends.

‘Fay was so kind, we liked the same things and used to ring each other several times a day to discuss the news when difficult or tragic things happened, or to discuss our travels and the places we’d both explored,’ says Barbara.

When Fay passed away in 2017, she named Barbara in her will. With Fay’s long-term support for cancer research through the Fay Fuller Foundation, Barbara was keen to see these funds continue Fay’s legacy by creating a scholarship to advance cancer research.


Established in perpetuity, the annual $5,000 Margaret Fay Fuller Scholarship will support a high-achieving PhD student at Flinders University in the field of cancer research.

‘Fay Fuller was magnificent. She was always helping charities or people when there was a tragedy announced,’ says Barbara.

‘I sincerely hope this scholarship continues to carry her legacy and can support a student in the final year of their PhD to make their life a bit easier.’


Inaugural scholarship recipient Jessica Thomas (MPublicHlth ’14) is studying how to reduce alcohol-related breast cancer risk.

‘Like many Australians, breast cancer has impacted people I care about,’ says Jessica.

‘Alcohol presents one of the few modifiable risk factors and reducing our intake provides us with an opportunity to significantly reduce breast cancer – one of the most common cancers in Australia.’

However, Jessica’s PhD research is not without challenges. While one in seven women in Australia are predicted to develop breast cancer, many don’t understand the link between drinking alcohol and the risk of breast cancer – and are reticent to change habits.

‘Talking about reducing alcohol intake can be very polarising, people don’t like being told what to do,’ says Jessica.

‘We know what needs to be done, what we don’t understand is how to effect change – my PhD seeks to address this.’


Jessica is passionate about her research and about making a difference.

‘I wanted to work on a health issue where I could make an original contribution and where there could be meaningful change. This is what drives me to get out of bed in the morning.’

She is incredibly grateful to Barbara for establishing the Margaret Fay Fuller Scholarship and the support it will provide, not only to her but to emerging cancer researchers into the future.


‘People like Barbara make the world a better place. Her investment supports me to complete ground-breaking research and to create new knowledge on how we can reduce breast cancer risk.’

Jessica says completing a PhD is a gruelling undertaking but doing research during a pandemic is like trying to learn how to swim in a stormy sea.

‘Being awarded this scholarship is like a shining beacon, a lighthouse that will guide my way to completion. It means that others see the value in the research and the impact that it can have on cancer prevention.’

‘It inspires me to keep going, to dig deep during that tough final year, to finish this research and get it published and out into the world where it can make a difference.’


2021 Encounter magazine – Read more

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2021 Encounter magazine College of Medicine and Public Health Health Higher Degree Research (PhD)

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