Life & Style Weekend - - WELCOME - WORDS: KA­RINA EAST­WAY

The vol­un­teers at the new Sun­shine Coast Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal oughtta feel very proud. Newly-ap­pointed Health Ser­vice Chief Ex­ec­u­tive (CE), Ad­junct Pro­fes­sor Naomi Dwyer lists her ini­tial en­counter with the hos­pi­tal vol­un­teers (a few days be­fore start­ing in the top job) as one of her proud­est mo­ments to date.

“They ac­tu­ally didn’t know who I was, or they did a very good job of not let­ting on,” Prof Dwyer said.

“If I was a mem­ber of the pub­lic com­ing in to visit a loved one or bring­ing some­body in for care, hav­ing that level of pos­i­tiv­ity and kind­ness avail­able right at the en­try point of a health ser­vice makes such a dif­fer­ence – it made me feel re­ally proud.”

Prof Dwyer, 53, comes to the Sun­shine Coast from Ade­laide, where she was CEO of South Aus­tralia’s Women’s and Chil­dren’s Health Net­work. Since ar­riv­ing in Novem­ber last year, she said the other thing that has re­ally im­pressed is the spirit of col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween lo­cal health ser­vices and key part­ners here on the Coast.

Whether it’s the teach­ing arm of the hos­pi­tal in the unique Sun­shine Coast Health In­sti­tute part­ner­ship (Grif­fith Univer­sity, Univer­sity of Sun­shine Coast and TAFE Queens­land East Coast), the North Coast Abo­rig­i­nal Health Cor­po­ra­tion, the Pri­mary Health Care Net­work, GPS or other pri­vate health providers, she said the spirit of col­lab­o­ra­tion to take the re­gion’s health care to the next level was pal­pa­ble.

“It’s a great achieve­ment in just safely open­ing a new univer­sity hos­pi­tal. But the next op­por­tu­nity which re­ally ex­cites me is how we now, as an in­te­grated Sun­shine Coast hos­pi­tals and health ser­vice, take it to the next level in terms of world-class de­liv­ery,” Prof Dwyer said.

And she has enor­mous ex­pe­ri­ence in that area, as Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer for Queens­land’s first univer­sity hos­pi­tal which opened on the Gold Coast in 2014: an area she’s from orig­i­nally.

Prof Dwyer grew up on the Gold Coast and said one of the things she’s re­ally en­joy­ing about her move north is that so many parts of the Sun­shine Coast re­mind her of ‘home’, when it was all beau­ti­ful un­spoilt beaches and a re­laxed life­style. “In those days” when there was no univer­sity on the Gold Coast, she had to travel to Bris­bane to both work and study (in busi­ness), feel­ing she was miss­ing out on all the fun of be­ing a full-time univer­sity stu­dent.

“But look­ing back now, it was a real op­por­tu­nity to bank some of that life ex­pe­ri­ence and work ex­pe­ri­ence which has been so help­ful later on,” she said.

“When you look back over your life, you see the crit­i­cal peo­ple that have made a dif­fer­ence. I of­ten say to our daugh­ter,

(Grace, 22), that ca­reers can be like Snakes and Lad­ders. Some­times it’s about those defin­ing points and peo­ple and de­ci­sions which can be quite crit­i­cal in where you ul­ti­mately land. Some­times you can ap­proach life and think you’ve got a whole ca­reer planned ahead of you but life’s not like that.”

With a suc­cess­ful ca­reer to draw from, she says a more re­silient ap­proach is to keep your eyes open for the op­por­tu­ni­ties, and not be­ing de­feated by dis­ap­point­ment or when things don’t pan out the way you thought they would.

And early in her ca­reer, while work­ing and study­ing in busi­ness, that’s ex­actly what hap­pened when she took an op­por­tu­nity to work with Gold Coast Health.

That role ig­nited her love of pub­lic health and un­der­stand­ing of how com­plex adap­tive or­gan­i­sa­tions like health are. It also crys­tallised her un­der­stand­ing of what’s im­por­tant in lead­er­ship, and in cre­at­ing a pos­i­tive cul­ture to de­liver great care.

“I think lead­er­ship is about set­ting the or­gan­i­sa­tional tone and, as I’ve said to a cou­ple of my team al­ready, CE stands for the chief en­abling of­fi­cer. So, what can I do to pro­vide the right cul­ture, sys­tems and sup­port for peo­ple that are at the di­rect

in­ter­face of pro­vid­ing care, or sup­port­ing some­body to pro­vide care. For me, it’s about hearts and minds.”

Prof Dwyer said one of the things that in­spires her about the health in­dus­try is that it’s driven by ser­vice, and that the peo­ple work­ing in health care are there be­cause they want to make a dif­fer­ence.

It’s some­thing she’s ex­pe­ri­enced first hand from the con­sumer’s point of view too, hav­ing had loved ones in her own life with ill­ness and dis­abil­ity, she un­der­stands the need to trust strangers with the peo­ple you love most in the world.

“[As a health ser­vice] we are there in the hap­pi­est, the most fright­en­ing, the sad­dest point of peo­ple’s lives and I think lead­er­ship is about cre­at­ing an or­gan­i­sa­tion where peo­ple can rely on the care that they’ll re­ceive.

“That’s not just the tech­ni­cal part of care, but it’s also about how we de­liver that in a kind and com­pas­sion­ate way. I’ve seen great care and I’ve seen care else­where that is not what I would want my or­gan­i­sa­tion to de­liver.”

While Prof Dwyer has hit the ground run­ning in the new po­si­tion, she’s also taken the time to dis­cover what makes the Sun­shine Coast so spe­cial as a re­gion. Liv­ing not far from the hos­pi­tal, walk­ing along the “un­spoilt and gor­geous” beaches at Wur­tulla and Cur­rimundi are a favourite, as is hav­ing break­fast at Maleny, stop­ping into all the hin­ter­land shops and gal­leries and din­ing at Ocean Street, Ma­roochy­dore.

To­gether with hus­band Wayne (who she de­scribes as be­ing the rea­son she can do what she does), they love both the hin­ter­land and coastal as­pects, and they love the life­style. But their ‘to do’ list on the Sun­shine Coast re­mains long.

“There’s some­thing very spe­cial here and it’s clear, even af­ter be­ing here for just a few weeks, it’s very com­mu­nity cen­tred. This role is a real priv­i­lege and es­pe­cially at this time in the health ser­vice’s life jour­ney, there’s so many op­por­tu­ni­ties to do great things be­cause the peo­ple, and the part­ner­ships are fan­tas­tic.

“A few years back, Wayne and I vis­ited from South Aus­tralia. We went for a drive and you could see the hos­pi­tal tak­ing shape and we thought, ‘wow, isn’t that go­ing to be tremen­dous and wouldn’t it be great to be CEO there?’.”

Now they of­ten say how ironic it was. “Some­time life takes you in di­rec­tions that you hadn’t an­tic­i­pated, but isn’t that mar­vel­lous?”


Sun­shine Coast Hos­pi­tal and Health Ser­vice Chief Ex­ec­u­tive, Ad­junct Pro­fes­sor Naomi Dwyer, at the Sun­shine Coast Univer­ity Hos­pi­tal.


Queens­land Health’s Sun­shine Coast Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal.

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