Medicos feature in Australian of the Year state finals

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust || doi: 10.5694/mja15.1214C3
Published online: 14 December 2015

Medical practitioners and other health professionals have featured heavily in the list of state and territory finalists for the 2016 Australian of the Year awards.

Australian of the Year finalists


Cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Ian Nicholson, AM, is a regular volunteer with Open Heart International, delivering treatment to impoverished parts of Papua New Guinea, Rwanda and Cambodia. He also operates in a number of Sydney hospitals, including Sydney Adventist. He also represents the interests of Open Heart International within the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.


Professor George Jelinek was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1999 after a distinguished career in emergency medicine. He discovered MS could be controlled through good nutrition and exercise. He initiated the world’s first lifestyle MS self-help program in 2002, and founded Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis. This year he was appointed Head of Neuroepidemiology at the University of Melbourne.


Dr John Greenwood, AM, is a plastic surgeon and Medical Director of the Adult Burn Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, covering SA, NT, western NSW and western Victoria. He runs education services, and heads the nation’s only mobile burn response unit in disaster scenarios. Since 2003, Dr Greenwood has been developing skin substitute products based on a biodegradable polyurethane platform.


Former president of the Australian Medical Association (1993–1995), Dr Brendan Nelson, has been nominated for his work as Director of the Australian War Memorial, overseeing a significant upgrade to the Memorial’s World War One galleries and personalising the honour roll, he has breathed life into the AWM.

Senior Australian of the Year finalists


Professor Gordian Fulde has been director of one of Australia’s busiest emergency departments, St Vincent’s Hospital and Sydney Hospital for more than 3 decades. He is outspoken about ‘ice’ and alcohol-fuelled violence. He is actively involved in teaching and training students and staff, and is on the Board of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation.

Dr Yvonne McMaster, OAM, was one of the first palliative care specialists in Australia. After retirement she became a formidable health advocate. Dr McMaster has led petitions and media campaigns, written countless letters and delivered speeches in country towns and inner city enclaves. The backbone behind the Push for Palliative crusade, she campaigns for the right of people to die with dignity.

Young Australian of the Year


Dr Bronwyn Jones has undertaken voluntary clinical placements in South Africa, Sri Lanka, Egypt and the US, conducted HIV research at the WHO headquarters in Switzerland, and improved health literacy in rural Zimbabwe. She spent a year volunteering in an Aboriginal clinic in rural WA, worked on the Youth Advisory Board of the WA Red Cross and represented the Australian Medical Students’ Association.

Dr Vinay Menon has worked in malaria research in Burkina Faso, with leprosy patients in India, and in Tanzanian refugee camps. Here Dr Menon has volunteered with Aboriginal children through medical clinics in the Kimberley, and in Arnhem Land. He was elected the national youth leader of Red Cross for 3 years, and is now a Resident Medical Officer at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.


A neuroscientist, Dr Lila Landowski is seeking a cure for peripheral neuropathy, presenting findings nationally and internationally, and training at the Mayo Clinic in the US. She teaches at the University of Tasmania and through the Wicking Dementia Centre’s Understanding Dementia online course. Dr Landowski shares her love of science with schools and in a regular spot on ABC Radio.


Dr Kate Eisenberg, a former support worker for Karinya House for Mothers and Babies, is a doctor at Calvary Hospital. As a published author, she’s emphasised the importance of gender awareness in medicine and as a communicator at the National Science and Technology Centre she has inspired young women to change their career paths. She also ran a project reducing clinical waste in hospitals.

Australia’s Local Heroes


Dr Anne Bunde-Birouste, from the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of NSW, has created a life-changing program for refugee youth as they transition into Australian society. While undertaking her PhD, she created Football United together with other strategies to inspire young people, foster their educational engagement and promote social justice and cross-cultural harmony.


Now Medical Director of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) in WA, Dr Stephen Langford started at the front line in 1983. He has introduced innovations, from treatment preventing premature birth to ultrasound diagnostic capabilities, and special transfer equipment for heavy patients. Dr Langford campaigned for a fast Hawker 800 jet, transforming how emergency medical teams could respond.


Medical researcher Yanping Zhang has built one of the world’s most comprehensive and long-lasting studies of breast cancer treatments and outcomes. For over 18 years, she and her team have collected detailed medical data on almost every breast cancer case (95%) in the ACT and surrounds. This has contributed to the ACT’s higher-than-average survival rates and advances in treatment.

  • Cate Swannell



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