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01 Jun 2018

The recipient of the AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award 2018 wants to know how she can use it to build greater awareness for a very worthy cause.

Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM FAHMS was presented with her award by outgoing AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, at the AMA National Conference in Canberra in May.

Professor Elliott is a pioneer in research, clinical care, and advocacy for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and was named the winner of the AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award 2018 during the opening session of the Conference.

FASD is caused by prenatal alcohol exposure and is recognised as the leading preventable cause of prenatal brain injury, birth defects, and developmental and learning disability worldwide. There are lifelong consequences for children born from alcohol-exposed pregnancies.

The AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award is for an individual, not necessarily a doctor or AMA member, who has made a significant contribution to improving health or health care in Australia. The person may be involved in health awareness, health policy, or health delivery.

Professor Elliott was nominated for the award by the National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (NOFASD), the first and largest organisation dedicated to FASD in Australia.

Over the past 20 years, FASD has evolved from being a little-known, poorly recognised, and misunderstood condition to becoming a major strategic focus for Commonwealth and State Health Departments.

“I am really delighted to be acknowledged, but I really accept the award on behalf of all the children and families I work with, and of course a lot of dedicated clinicians,” she told Australian Medicine.

“I guess for me it’s particularly nice that the group that nominated me was the national organisation.

“I read something that said this was an opportunity to highlight this cause so I’m very keen to find out how to use the AMA network to raise awareness.

“We need to raise awareness of (1) the fact that are still lots of women who drink during their pregnancy not knowing they might harm their unborn child, and (2) there are lots of doctors who are very reluctant to ask pregnant mothers about their drinking.

“They don’t want to upset the doctor-patient relationship, and yet women tell us they want to be asked. They want clear advice. In fact many of them tell us they want to be told not to drink during pregnancy. They want a clear message from doctors.”

Professor Elliott is a Distinguished Professor in Paediatrics and Health at The University of Sydney School of Medicine and a NHMRC Practitioner Fellow. She has been a passionate advocate for raising awareness of FASD for more than 20 years.

In presenting her the award, Dr Gannon said Professor Elliott played a significant leadership role in developing the Australian Guide to the Diagnosis of FASD and online training modules, new clinical services, a national FASD website, and a national FASD register.

“She chaired the Australian Government’s National FASD Technical Network and is Co-Chair of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in FASD, and Head of the NSW FASD Assessment service,” Dr Gannon said.

“She was lead clinician in the Lililwan study on FASD prevalence in the Fitzroy Valley and has published extensively on FASD.

“She contributed to WHO, NHMRC, and RACP alcohol guidelines and has been a keynote, invited, or scientific presenter at more than 300 conferences nationally and internationally.

 “Professor Elliott is a true pioneer in the FASD field and has contributed to the development of Australia’s response to FASD, through addressing aspects of health policy, health care delivery, education, and health awareness in the work she has undertaken.

“However, FASD is only one component of Professor Elliott’s work, which includes disadvantaged children in Immigration detention, with rare disorders, and living in remote Australia.

“In 2008, she was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to paediatrics and child health and, in 2017, she received the Howard Williams Medal from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) – its highest award – for her contribution to paediatrics in Australia and New Zealand.

“Much of her work has been undertaken voluntarily, and has strengthened Australia’s health systems and their capacity to respond to FASD.

“Her efforts have improved health care services in FASD and changed health outcomes for children and families living with, and affected by, FASD.

“She is a worthy recipient of the AMA Excellence in Healthcare Award.”

CHRIS JOHNSON

 

 

 

 

 


Published: 01 Jun 2018