WHA Medal of Distinction and Member Champions

We would thank our members for their dedication, and commitment to our vision, and for their time and generosity in contributing to the WHA Member Community.

WHA Medal of Distinction

The Medal of Distinction is WHA’s highest honour.  The WHA Medal of Distinction was established by Women’s Hospitals Australasia (WHA) in 2004 to honour those individuals who make an outstanding contribution to improving the health of women through service provision, leadership or advocacy.   

The Medal may be awarded to individuals directly affiliated with WHA, and also to members of the broader community who, through their exceptional endeavours contribute to significant improvements in women’s healthcare.  

For those directly affiliated with WHA, the criteria for awarding the Medal of Distinction include a significant period of service to WHA, and sustained leadership and advocacy for women’s health. The Medal of Distinction is not awarded for long service but, rather, for exceptional and meritorious service. For members of the broader community, the criterion is recognition at a national level for leadership and advocacy for women’s health.  

2021 WHA Medal of Distinction

Women’s Healthcare Australasia is delighted to announce the recipient of the 2021 WHA Medal of Distinction, A/Prof Emily Callander 

A/Prof Emily Callander was awarded this year’s Medal in recognition of her outstanding contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of women and newborns through leadership in health economic research, analysis and translation to improve the equity, efficacy and efficiency of maternal & women’s health services and models of care.   

Contribution of Emily Callander to Women’s Health

Associate Professor Emily Callander is a health economist at Monash University, where she is Head of the Women’s Health Economics Unit at the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation.  She is supported by an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship and leads many NHMRC, MRFF and industry funded research projects.  Emily specialises in maternal and women’s health, with particular interests in value based healthcare, equity and efficiency measurement. She collaborates regularly with state health departments and individual maternity services to help embed health economic evidence in decision making in maternity care.  

Emily’s research has focused on quantifying efficiency and equity in maternal and women’s health care.  This has included leading the cost-effectiveness evaluations of numerous national or international clinical trials in maternal health, which seeks to identify the cost-effectiveness of interventions if they were implemented as a part of routine care.  In addition to clinical trials, she has led the economic evaluation of a number of national health programs (for example, the Safer Baby Bundle, and remote BreastScreen), and the production of real-world evidence with the use of linked administrative datasets, monitoring the costs and outcomes produced in the real-world setting.   

Emily partners with service providers and policy makers in maternity care to translate this evidence into data that can be used at the local decision-making level where implementation and thus impact is generated.  For example, she has worked with Queensland Health to produce their Normal Birth Strategy to reduce rates of caesarean section, and their Costing Companion for Maternity Services to increase availability of midwifery continuity staffing. She also works with the NSW Bureau of Health Information to improve data collection of patient experience; and is working with Monash Partners in Victoria to implement an embedded health economist program for maternal health.   

Emily’s research is unique internationally in its focus on embedding a health economics research program related to maternal and women’s health into health services. There is an extensive body of clinical trial-based research, and modelled economic evaluations related to maternal health care; however, there is often considerable delay in the translation and implementation of this work.   Part of this delay can be attributed to a lack of real-world evidence, which decision-makers can use to identify the health or efficiency gains that could be realised in their local context. The decision to implement a new intervention or service is often more complex than what is captured in a clinical trial environment, with consideration of optimal implementation needed.     

By partnering directly with health services and policy makers Emily creates real-world, usable evidence, tailored to local settings.  She estimates the cost, health and equity impacts for a specific hospital or health service if changes to local-level service delivery were made. It is only through close partnership with services – which involves identifying unique aspects of each service, the population they service, and relevant decision-making factors – can such tailored and usable information be generated to help facilitate optimal translation and generate impact for the benefit of women.       

Emily’s work on maternal outcomes and out of pocket fees have also been utilised by maternity consumers to advocate for better access to models of care and services demanded by women.   Her analysis has been used in nationally-disseminated consumer-focused publications such as Money Magazine and Mumma Mia, national media outlets – ABC Online, The Guardian, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Courier Mail, and ABC National Radio. The nationally televised SBS Insight program developed an episode based upon Emily’s work on out of pocket fees for maternity care, and Emily featured as a guest speaker.  In 2018 there was an unprecedented decline in private hospital births, which prominent health economist Professor Stephen Duckett attributed to the sustained media coverage of Emily’s work on out of pocket fees.  

Emily’s is making a measurable difference to improving women’s health and wellbeing across Australia and beyond.    

2021 Nominations

In July 2021, WHA invited members to make nominations for the 2021 Medal of Distinction.  We received 7 nominations for the individuals listed below.  In reviewing the nominations, the WHA Board acknowledged that each nominee is making an outstanding contribution to improving the experiences and outcomes of women receiving maternity and gynaecology care, through innovations in the design and delivery of local services, through research and through advocacy.  Each of these individuals are worthy of recognition for their commitment to improving the lives of women and their passion for clinical excellence.   

Our sincere thanks and congratulations to: 

  • Dr Kate Walsh, Head of Department, Obstetricis & Gynaecology, Northern Adelaide Local Health Network, SA 
  • Kylie Wilks, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Gynaecology Outpatient Service, Gold Coast University Hosptial, Qld 
  • Julie Westaway, Nurse Practitioner, Urogynaecology, Toowoomba Hospital, Darling Downs Hospital & Health Service, Qld 
  • Nicola Taylor-Edwards, Midwifery Navigator, Complex Care, Logan Hospital, Metro South Hospital & Health Service, Qld 
  • Jennifer Patterson, Nurse Unit Manager, Women’s Ambulatory Service, Joan Kirner Women’s & Children’s Hospital, Western Health, VIC 
  • Kate Reynolds, Coordinator of Midwifery, WA Country Health Service; Program Manager, CHI Maternal Health Improvement Project; Co-lead, Woman & Newborn’s Health Network, Clinical Excellence Division, Department of Health, WA 

Past recipients of the WHA Medal of Distinction

  • 2004: Ms Anne Cahill  
  • 2005: Prof Jeffery Robinson  
  • 2006: Prof David Henderson Smart AO  
  • 2007: Prof Jeremy Oats  
  • 2008: Robyn Collins  
  • 2009: A/Prof Peter Baghurst  
  • 2010: Prof David Ellwood  
  • 2011: Prof Sally Tracy  
  • 2013: Vicki Flenady  
  • 2014: Patrice Hickey  
  • 2019: Prof Caroline Homer