The worlds of medicine and business are not that far apart, especially when it comes to those who share, and those who don’t, says Professor Fiona Wood, renowned plastic surgeon and co-developer of the ground-breaking medical development ‘spray-on skin’.
The former Australian of the Year believes there’s a clear need to change people’s mindsets in order for them to move to a more collaborative state.
“I think in both medicine and the broader business world, sharing is not on people’s agenda,” says Professor Wood. “The whole system of secrecy is something I don’t understand. I went to a Quaker school where the motto was ‘not oneself but others’. Being isolated means productivity goes down. Selfishness is not sustainable in the long term.”
In the aftermath of the horrific Bali bombings in 2002, Professor Wood and her team worked tirelessly to treat the badly burned victims. The ‘spray-on skin’ cell technology Professor Wood pioneered for use in treating the burns victims, garnered international attention.
Entering the profession
“As with most young people, you are often faced with the choice of either humanities or science, and I was a very science-based student at school,” she muses. After university, she went to medical school at St Thomas’s in London.
“At medical school, anatomy just bowled me over, which in turn sparked my interest in surgery. There are a lot of different disciplines in surgery, and there was a lot happening in plastic surgery at the time – it covers a huge spectrum from the cosmetic to the extreme rebuild. From there my interest in burns developed,” she says.
Good enough is not enough
‘Average’, ‘mediocre’ and ‘negative’ are words that are obviously not in her makeup or vocabulary – yet they are often behaviours we see displayed around us. But how does she, whether it’s in her role as a parent or in working with her medical and research teams, personally seek to instill an intolerance of these behaviours?
She says: “my attitude is good enough is not enough, whether it’s doing an OK job on the washing up or in surgery. Tomorrow is always going to be better and we should at least learn from one thing each day.”
The work of a surgeon is filled with moments of great success when a patient survives and thrives after complicated surgery, and Professor Wood often speaks with passion about the value of celebrating success, and how easily we can bypass these opportunities and look for things that are wrong and to criticise.
“It’s about feeling when there’s a need to celebrate and when the journey should continue. It’s about balance. Do it too much and you overdo it, do it too little and you neglect to note the successes. Every day you should learn something, whether it’s from a small event or a large one.”
“You need to critically evaluate and learn every day. As a leader, it is important to scan the horizon and feel the team and the journey they are on, to know when it is time. I need to consciously do this because I am a very driven person and I can just keep going without stopping.”
About Fiona Wood, AM
In recognition of her work with the Bali bombing victims, Professor Wood was named a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003. That same year the Australian Medical Association bestowed upon her the ‘Contribution to Medicine’ award.
She was named West Australian of the Year in 2004, and received nominations that same year as a National Living Treasure and Australian Citizen of the Year. Professor Wood was named Australian of the Year for 2005.
In 2005, Wood, along with McComb Foundation (now called The Fiona Wood Foundation) co-founder Marie Stoner, won the Clunies Ross Award for their contribution to medical science in Australia. From 2005 to 2010, Professor Wood was voted Australia’s Most Trusted Person in the annual Reader’s Digest survey.