FIONA WOOD

Australian Health Today - - Contents -

For­mer Aus­tralian of the Year and a Mem­ber of the Or­der of Aus­tralia, Pro­fes­sor Fiona Wood has had a long and re­mark­able ca­reer as a worl­drenowned burns spe­cial­ist whose pri­mary goal is to pro­vide man­age­ment and care for burns vic­tims and to de­liver scar­less heal­ing.

She was thrust into the spot­light af­ter the hor­rific 2002 Bali bomb­ings, and worked tire­lessly with her team to save the sur­vivors. With mul­ti­ple roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, both pro­fes­sion­ally and per­son­ally, she talks can­didly about her life’s pas­sions and how she stays on top of her game. For Pro­fes­sor Wood, reg­u­lar ex­er­cise and lead­ing a healthy life­style is para­mount to man­ag­ing her re­lent­less sched­ule be­tween hos­pi­tals, the foun­da­tion, the uni­ver­sity and travel overseas where she con­tin­ues to de­liver her mes­sage about her re­search in burns care.

Di­rec­tor of the Burns Ser­vice of WA, Fiona Stan­ley Hos­pi­tal and Princess Mar­garet Hos­pi­tal Con­sul­tant Plas­tic Sur­geon, Fiona Stan­ley Hos­pi­tal and Princess Mar­garet Hos­pi­tal Co-founder and Di­rec­tor of the Fiona Wood Foun­da­tion (for­merly The McComb Foun­da­tion) Winthrop Pro­fes­sor, School of Surgery, Uni­ver­sity of West­ern Aus­tralia

Q when does a typ­i­cal day start and end for you?

I al­ways kind of smile at that one be­cause one of the very for­tu­nate things for me is that I live in a space where there is no real “typ­i­cal” day. I usu­ally start at 5 o’clock …an­swer­ing emails, get­ting my­self or­gan­ised and by 6, I’ll be ex­er­cis­ing. Then it de­pends if I’m on clin­i­cal, I’ll be at the hos­pi­tal early, or if I’m on re­search ros­ter or meet­ings I’ll move be­tween the hos­pi­tals or var­i­ous meet­ing places, whether it’s the uni­ver­sity or city, and then its op­er­at­ing, out­pa­tients, more meet­ings around health at the Burns Ser­vice, or meet­ings around health gen­er­ally. I’m on var­i­ous com­mit­tees, so more meet­ings around dif­fer­ent re­search groups. It’s quite var­ied each day and into the early even­ing.

Q You have an ex­tremely busy life as a suc­cess­ful med­i­cal pro­fes­sional, mum to six chil­dren, re­searcher and more. what strate­gies do you use to or­gan­ise your time?

I guess I’ve been very much a plan­ner all my life… very keen at look­ing at what I’ve had to achieve and work­ing out how best to dove­tail it in when you see an op­por­tu­nity of time open­ing, hav­ing things you can move and be­ing flex­i­ble. Its plan­ning but with in­built flex­i­bil­ity and not be­ing rigid in your plan­ning, and pri­ori­tis­ing.

For me, the kids were a pri­or­ity, so work­ing with my hus­band mak­ing sure that they had their needs met and they were at the right place at the right time. To do this we would al­ter­nate and on the days I would work early, he would take the kids to school. When I would fin­ish early, he would work late. That sort of jug­gling. I feel like it’s not so much a bal­ance. It’s more like Chi­nese plate jug­gling!

Q if you had to take a step back and slow down, what would you do?

I would still ex­er­cise. There is no sub­sti­tute for your per­sonal fit­ness. Hav­ing the ca­pac­ity to ex­er­cise brings you to the ta­ble with a higher level of ca­pa­bil­ity. If you’re fit, you can de­liver at a higher level of ef­fi­ciency – you’re fit in­side and out. If I were to step back and slow down, I would def­i­nitely cy­cle more.

Q How of­ten would you give your­self a bit of ‘me” time? what do you do for re­lax­ation?

Def­i­nitely my ex­er­cise in the morn­ing. I also love the beach. I was in there this morn­ing in the big waves. Walk­ing on the beach and then I throw my­self in the wa­ter. I love the waves. I’m not re­ally a swim­mer but I just like be­ing knocked around by the waves - for a bit of a play. I mean, how of­ten do we play? We have fun in the waves and just mess about. Even af­ter a cy­cle, I’ll try

and head down to the wa­ter, even in win­ter.

Q How of­ten would you make time for reg­u­lar phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity in your busy work­ing week?

Other than cycling, walk­ing and throw­ing my­self into the waves, I do a fit­ness class each week on the beach, and even when I’m away and trav­el­ling, my trainer gives me videos to do - lit­tle ex­er­cise sets. It takes me about half an hour and even if I’m in a ho­tel room, I find it a lot bet­ter to fol­low the videos be­cause I’m not re­ally one for the ho­tel gyms. So I’ll use weights and bands, but when I’m in my ho­tel room, I’ll use my body weight for re­sis­tance train­ing. Which is great be­cause it’s al­ways been a prob­lem for me not be­ing able to ex­er­cise while trav­el­ling. Now, I can!

Q How do you keep your brain healthy and happy?

Well, I think there is prob­a­bly a hole in my brain when it comes to learn­ing a lan­guage, and I’m not that great with cross­words, Su­doku and the like, but I do like read­ing a lot. I read fic­tion but I also read a lot around re­lated ma­te­rial try­ing to un­der­stand the ad­vanc­ing tech­nolo­gies that are out there and how they can im­pact on what we do in our burns care. So, I guess my brain ac­tiv­ity is re­ally ‘hori­zon scan­ning’ and look­ing at what is hap­pen­ing else­where and think­ing “Well, how can that re­ally help us? Or what about that ge­netic anal­y­sis? Or how peo­ple might be treat­ing some­thing over there, and ac­tu­ally that might be re­ally in­ter­est­ing be­cause that in­fec­tion might teach us some­thing about our pa­tients here.” I al­ways read ev­ery night, I’m an avid reader espe­cially just be­fore I sleep.

Q What about your diet? Any­thing spe­cific that you eat, or do you fol­low a par­tic­u­lar diet trend?

I al­ways feel that I eat too much and I love food but I have to watch that I don’t eat too much. I’m not fol­low­ing any par­tic­u­lar diet but eat­ing sen­si­bly makes a big dif­fer­ence. You have to main­tain your en­ergy. I have lots of ath­letes in my house so we have to eat healthy. Just good healthy food, so if I buy ice cream too of­ten, they get cranky at me. I love choco­late but we have to keep that for week­ends.

Q one of your great­est achieve­ments has been your work with ‘spray on skin’ with marie stoner, which gave you crit­i­cal ac­claim. Put sim­ply, how does it work?

Well, we re­place our skin sur­face con­tin­u­ally. Ev­ery six to eight weeks the cy­cle is go­ing through. The en­gine room in the skin is be­tween the two main lay­ers. It’s re­ally tak­ing an en­zyme and split­ting the skin like a bread and but­ter sand­wich, and the en­gine room is the but­ter and that is what I’m look­ing for, so I put the skin

an en­zyme and the two main lay­ers split apart and so that has left me with the ‘but­ter’ sur­face ex­posed, if you like. We scrape that off and that is the en­gine room. They’re the cells that re­plen­ish the sur­face of the skin. So we har­vest them by scrap­ing off the but­ter (of the bread and but­ter sand­wich) and we spray it back on. It takes twenty min­utes to har­vest the skin so it is a pretty quick process, where we use a kit. The aim is to speed up the time to heal and so by do­ing that, you re­duce the scar­ring.

Q what is the aim of the fiona wood foun­da­tion? How im­por­tant is fundrais­ing for this cause?

Fundrais­ing is all about keep­ing our re­search go­ing and giv­ing us the free­dom and op­por­tu­nity to fa­cil­i­tate ex­plor­ing ques­tions and ex­plor­ing how we can un­der­stand the dif­fer­ences in dif­fer­ent groups. By un­der­stand­ing the dif­fer­ence in cer­tain burns, then we can un­der­stand the mech­a­nism be­hind that in the cells. By un­der­stand­ing that, we can then try and change the care. It’s all about im­prove­ment of care by re­search. If we raise more money, we do more. If we raise less, we do less. We wouldn’t have been able to do any­thing any­where near what we have done with­out the com­mu­nity sup­port. What we have been able to achieve has been fa­cil­i­tated by our com­mu­nity sup­port­ing the foun­da­tion.

Q what are the ma­jor­ity of burns you see as a re­sult of? and why?

In the kid’s hos­pi­tals, the ma­jor­ity of cases are scalds. In the adult hos­pi­tals, it’s flame burns. Re­ally, that’s pretty stan­dard for a de­vel­oped pop­u­la­tion. The vast ma­jor­ity of our burns are not ma­jor and that is pre­dom­i­nantly be­cause of pre­ven­tion, oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety strate­gies have been very ef­fec­tive in our en­vi­ron­ment. Things like safety around nightwear in chil­dren means we don’t see those types of burns where kids get flame burns from their night clothes. The way ket­tles are de­signed now, we see less ket­tle scalds. Our homes and our work­places are de­signed much bet­ter. We saw, cer­tainly by the early 90s, a big fall away from the in­ci­dence of the very nasty ma­jor burns. Most of our burns are less than 20% body sur­face area, but hav­ing said that, that is a pretty ma­jor burn for some­one.

But when some­one does have a ma­jor burn we are ob­vi­ously fo­cussed on treat­ing them in a way to al­ways strive to give them the best pos­si­ble out­come to what they were be­fore.

Q what made you pas­sion­ate about burns in­juries?

I saw a child so badly scarred from a very triv­ial in­jury in 1985 and I couldn’t be­lieve that that was as good as we could get. So that’s when I started and I was de­ter­mined to make that bet­ter. There’s so much new at the mo­ment. Un­der­stand­ing that a burn in­jury in­flu­ences the rest of your life, we want to know why and I par­tic­u­larly want to know how we can use the brain, and the im­pact on the ner­vous sys­tem, be­cause it is so painful, and the skin is a ner­vous re­cep­tor. It’s our in­ter­face with the world, and so, if you dam­age the skin, its painful, the nerves change, your brain changes, and we want to use that in­for­ma­tion to drive a bet­ter re­pair, to drive that per­son’s heal­ing. So I think it’s re­ally ex­cit­ing to un­der­stand the neu­ro­log­i­cal im­pact of burn in­jury.

Q what are the proud­est mo­ments for you per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally?

I’ve had some great mo­ments per­son­ally. I feel very for­tu­nate to be the mum of six amaz­ing kids. They’ve cer­tainly made me proud on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions. Pro­fes­sion­ally, there are two lev­els; be­ing Aus­tralian of the Year was be­yond any­thing I could have ever imag­ined. But then, some days, you see some­one who has climbed their own per­sonal Ever­est of heal­ing, and they walk out of here (the clinic), and you think, wow! That’s some­thing spe­cial.

Q what ad­vice would you give busy aus­tralians like your­self who are jug­gling mul­ti­ple tasks and try­ing to find a bal­ance be­tween home, ca­reer and health?

En­joy it... En­joy it….! I’ve got this far in my life and I still haven’t fig­ured out the ‘yes’ gene be­cause I keep us­ing it all the time. I keep say­ing, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” and I’m a yes per­son and I know that. Then I work out how to make things hap­pen. So, I’m an op­ti­mist, and I’ve been for­tu­nate to be able to bring to the ta­ble a joy of life. I en­joy it and I know that peo­ple around me, when they are en­joy­ing what they are do­ing, are bet­ter at it and it’s ex­cit­ing. They give more and the whole thing builds, so pos­i­tive en­ergy is some­thing that I re­ally thrive on and I re­ally con­nect with oth­ers and that gets you through the bad days. It’s not al­ways sun­shine and roses so I think the best thing is to find some­thing that you al­ways en­joy. Time is so pre­cious and you can’t waste it.

So my ad­vice is to make sure you en­joy it. If you’re not en­joy­ing it, and it be­comes a chore that’s when it’s time to stand back and ask “What are my life choices?” All we have is our time. You want to make sure you spend it wisely, and en­joy it on a ful­fil­ment level and you know you’re con­tribut­ing. Get pos­i­tive en­ergy from lots of dif­fer­ent spa­ces. Man­age­ment of stress is as­so­ci­ated with re­silience, which is in­trin­sic in part, but it is a learned be­hav­iour. Things aren’t al­ways go­ing to go right or the same way you ex­pect but if you en­joy some­thing and you put your life en­ergy into it, when you get to a hur­dle, you will have the re­silience to over­come that hur­dle in­stead of walk­ing away – be­cause it means enough.

PRO­FES­SOR FIONA WOOD

to do­nate to the Fiona Wood Foun­da­tion, go to www.fion­a­wood­foun­da­tion.com for more in­for­ma­tion

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