Our health is in expert hands

Medal recipients with board chair and chief executive
Celebrating our medal recipients at Westmead Hospital. L-R: WSLHD board chair Richard Alcock, WSLHD board member DI O’Halloran, Professor Paul Mitchell AO, Dr Helen Somerville AO, Professor Cres Eastman AO and WSLHD chief executive Danny O’Connor.

Some of Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD) dedicated professionals who received 2018 Australia Day honours have been honoured at a Westmead Hospital cocktail function hosted by the Westmead Association.

WSLHD board member Dr Di O’Halloran AO, Professor Paul Mitchell AO, Professor Creswell Eastman AO and Dr Helen Sommerville AO received national recognition for their commitment to the community and their profession.

Combined, WSLHD’s recipients have not only improved the health of people in western Sydney, they have completed international missions and made an impact on the health of people right around the world.

WSLHD chief executive Danny O’Connor said the number of people with prestigious honours is a great indicator of the health expertise available in western Sydney.

“It’s really exciting to know that we are being led by a group of professionals who are leading the way in the country and in many cases, around the world. It’s clear that the direction of health in western Sydney is in good hands,” Mr O’Connor said.

Westmead Hospital obstetrician Dr Andrew Pesce said that one of the award recipients, Dr O’Halloran, who is also a WSLHD Board member, made it her personal crusade to do what she could to better connect Westmead Hospital and the general practice sectors.

“Di is indeed a force of nature, and the best thing one can do is to line up behind her and support her because western Sydney is at the forefront of the reintegration of patient care across the boundaries of primary and hospital care because of her,” Dr Pesce said.

Dr O’Halloran said western Sydney’s health system is moving from volume to value.

“We are working towards a truly person-centred health system,” Dr O’Halloran said.

“We are moving from a focus on process and activity to outcomes, from hospital dependent to more community-based care, from seeing the health sector functioning in isolation, to understanding that health and social care are inextricably entwined.

“Let’s see what’s possible in 2018.”

Prof Mitchell, who has been the head of ophthalmology at Westmead Hospital for 20 years, was awarded an Order of Australia medal for his outstanding contributions to public health, ocular epidemiology and clinical ophthalmology.

Westmead Hospital ophthalmologist Professor Gerald Liew said Prof Mitchell led an eye study that has been globally recognised as one of the most important eye studies ever conducted.

“In 2018, Prof Mitchell’s research was in 1000 publications in all major general and eye journals,” Professor Liew said.

“Of the 100 most cited eye publications, three are led by Prof Mitchell, who is one of only two non-United States based academics to have multiple citations in the top 100 publications.

“He has taught the majority of medical retinal specialists treating retinal conditions in NSW and currently treats thousands of patients to preserve their vision.”

Prof Cres Eastman also celebrated at the cocktail function. He is the founding director of endocrinology and diabetes at Westmead Hospital. He was the director of NSW Pathology at Westmead from 1989 to 2006 and a driving force behind the Westmead Medical Research Foundation.

Westmead Hospital immunology director Professor Graeme Stewart said Professor Eastman is an international expert in thyroid disease.

“Prof Eastman led a program in China and Tibet to eradicate iodine deficiency,” Prof Stewart said.

“In 2005, the ABC Catalyst program covered the project and described Professor Eastman as ‘the man who saved a million brains’.

“He was appointed as advisor to UNICEF, World Bank and the World Health Organisation and consultant to the Ministry of Public Health in China and Tibet, as well as Honorary Professor of Medicine at Tianjin University.”

Dr Helen Somerville has been the pioneer of developmental disability services at both the adult and children’s hospital at Westmead for more than 25 years.

Rehabilitation medicine director Dr Joe Gurka said Dr Helen Somerville established a paediatric clinic for young people with intellectual disability at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead in the early 1990s.

“Dr Somerville was successful in establishing similar clinics at the adult hospital as her patients grew into adulthood,” Dr Gurka said.

“She has given much of her personal time and resources to meeting the needs of people in other countries such as East Timor and Myanmar, educating health professionals and providing expert advice on the management of patients in those regions.”

To read more about this year’s Australia Day recipients click or tap here.