Michael Chahine: the brave-heart benefactor
This larger-than-life bohemian activist turned the tragedy of his Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) diagnosis into hope for future generations of MSA patients.
The late Michael Chahine’s love for life and tireless energy captured the imagination of all those he came into contact with. For more than three decades, his career as a fashion retailer, photographer, and patron of the arts was enriched by his passions for travel, story-telling, activism and philanthropy.
Then, in 2014, Michael was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a neurodegenerative disease that affects his mobility, breathing, sight and speech. For the last five years he has made himself available as a volunteer in the only Australian laboratory dedicated to MSA research, led by Dr Michael Janitz from the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Science. Throughout that time, he has maintained a keen intellectual curiosity in MSA research, reading many of the papers published and keeping up to date with what these findings mean in terms of progress towards better, more successful treatments. As his friend and adviser, Brendan Hill, explains, Michael has made provisions for a generous gift from his estate to support ongoing research into early detection and treatment of MSA.
How did the partnership between Michael and Dr Janitz begin?
Michael took a proactive approach, travelling the world in search of an effective treatment. After discovering what he said was “the only meaningful MSA research in Australia”, he met up with Dr Janitz at UNSW and offered himself as an MSA patient.
What does Michael hope his gift will achieve?
Michael realised that, due to his deterioration from the disease, it’s too late for the research to help him. But he hopes that by volunteering as an MSA patient, he can help future generations of MSA sufferers.