Australian of the Year Anyone?
It’s not every day you get to meet an Australian of the Year. Or the head of a large foundation backed by some of the world’s most prestigious sponsors. I did my due diligence and researched my interviewee. The more I read, well let’s just say the more overwhelmed I began to feel as the accomplishments and accolades, not to mention the adoration from others- built up brick by brick like a mighty wall of quivering anticipation and nerves. This is one chic that may have a little more than a handful of accomplishments under her surgical belt.
What happened next left me smiling and uplifted.
Ponderers I would love you to meet Professor Fiona Wood. Fiona is the incredibly impressive Australian that I think is better than Vegemite, as impressive as Bradman and has won the hearts of many. What this woman has done for medicine in Australia, the world and burns patients will leave you in awe.
Some of you may have heard of the Fiona Wood Foundation.
The Foundation is a not-for-profit organization responsible for some of the most impressive pioneering in burns, wound care management programs in the world. One of Fiona’s mentors Harold McComb was the original name-bearer of the Foundation- then known as the McComb Foundation in 1999 with scientist Marie Stoner. It was renamed the Fiona Wood Foundation in 2012 in recognition of her work in the field of burns medicine.
One of her most well-known joint achievements was the creation of “spray-on skin” and her involvement in saving the lives of many after the tragic 2002 Bali Bombings.
The mother of six and avid cyclist has so many dimensions, and within moments of chatting, her warmth and infectious positivity and wit were bouncing in a contagious frequency. My nerves and sense of intimidation evaporated as quick as water on a hot Perth pavement. I instantly liked her and was grateful for her time. There was no sense of imposition, but rather a willingness to share and be human together.
K: Fiona you are no doubt an extremely busy lady! Where on earth do you get all of that energy?
FW: Good sleep, eating well, fitness and nutrition are everything to being able to keep everything in balance. It can be pretty rigorous work being on call so health is so important.
Daily exercise in the early morning makes you feel great. I enjoy cycling and pilates, swimming not- (she starts laughing heartily) – you know I look like a demented seal trying to catch waves. But I really do believe that fitness as well as choosing a positive attitude is absolutely everything to balance and being healthy and happy.
K: It is an exciting time in many fields of Medicine in regard to improvements and evolution of technology and long-term research coming to fruition, isn’t it? What are some of the aspects of this you are enjoying?
FW: In short- So much! Seriously though, there is a LOT of knowledge to be harnessed, the bit I like the most is the improved quality and outcome for patients, the quicker recovery times and people are surviving more serious injuries. The goal posts are moving. Mind you, for me personally they can’t move quick enough, as I don’t want to stop working until it is even better again. When I was younger I had this idea that you would go to work, solve the problem and everyone can all go home, and all would be well. This was not the case! Every single body as such is unique and technology needs to be integrated individually, burns are so very complex. The differences in scars is where data analysis has a future, and there is a new wave of medical ideas and research that is working. Burn injury and inflammation affects the whole body, so it is so very important that we continue to reach for complete scar recovery. The quality of a scar being worth survival is the goal.
K: I can hear the passion for what you do in your voice, it’s so infectious! This can’t all be nature, there must be some nurture in there. Many people I interview with that kind of insistent passion for doing hard work and persistence for a goal are influenced in some way by another person or mentor. Who was yours?
FW: My parents were incredibly hard working. We were brought up to work and the joy of work for work’s sake, to be useful and to find joy in work, to get that great feeling from a job well done and that has really been a big influence. My parents were passionate about hard work along with the idea that education provides freedom, that it creates choices. They really pushed that. When I started working in the field one of my mentors was Harold McCarb, an incredibly dedicated surgeon. So I have definitely had my influencers.
K: I love hearing you say this! We have always told our three children that even though sometimes education feels like a task, it is a gift and if you start to enjoy learning as a tool and a source of growth it provides opportunity and flexibility as an adult. You never stop learning! The ability to have choices means you are giving yourself your very best opportunity to have fulfilling experiences in life. It looks like we are both pro-work and education. I have been accused of being a high achiever, and sometimes it worries me that this sense of urgency has rubbed off on my kids. Do you find the same thing with your brood?
FW: I don’t know that this is a negative, to be honest! I had 6 children in 8 years and they are all older now, and every one of them is a high achiever and they all love sport, even more than me. They are happy. One of my sons is a multi-athlete, and they all strive to be better. But I don’t think this is a negative thing. It ‘s nice to make great choices and feel positive and joyful in what you do; it is important to feel a sense of purpose. Setting goals and achieving them is great!
K: What would you tell your 25 year old self if you were talking to her now?
FW: Get up in the morning and enjoy what you do, you will do well and better.
K: What are you looking forward to?
FW: I look forward to the beach in the morning, and the kids all over for dinner in the evening. I am looking forward to the results coming through for experiments we have done, it’s a 7 year piece of work that has just been recognised after doing work in Canada, and it’s a wonderful feeling when your team’s work is validated. You just want to do your best surgery, and best work and it’s transforming. I really look forward to that.
K: Finally Fiona- what do you enjoy reading?
FW: I really enjoy science fiction especially futuristic style!
Fiona’s entire focus while we talking was her passion for her patient’s comfort and quality of life, the recovery and the repair. I was aware that she was on a time limit, yet not once did she impose it and I felt we could have spoken for hours. Her positivity was bubbly and effervescent, she really is an extraordinary person extraordinarily serving the world. I love it when you chat to someone and walk away feeling like your heart is full and running over with a kind of bubbling presence.
Fiona said “You can choose every day to actually choose your view on things” I think this is worth such a ponder. Don’t you?