Who will you nominate?


As the head physiotherapist at Sydney’s busy Westmead Hospital, Maria Quinlivan, APAM, gets to enjoy what she calls ‘many great aspects of physiotherapy’. This includes introducing graduates to the public health sector through her hospital’s highly-sought-after graduate program, mentoring countless clinicians in pursuit of higher education, and ensuring patients experience the latest in clinical research and best of care from her team of about 70 physiotherapists.

‘I have been around a long time now, and I simply love this profession. As the manager of a very large department, I love welcoming many new physiotherapy graduates to the workforce every year, and I am very happy to be not too far removed from the patient care,’ Maria says. ‘I always wanted to work in a hospital, and I love the HR side of managing a department. I suppose it is unusual that I do not see my role as a stepping stone to something greater. This role constantly challenges me. What we do as a team adds tangible value to healthcare every day, and I do love what I do.’

Since graduating in 1980 from Cumberland College of Health Sciences (now University of Sydney), Maria has enjoyed a career in public health. She has been an active member of the NSW Physiotherapy Allocation Committee, including serving as treasurer and secretary. Maria has also served on the NSW Physiotherapy Registration Board, and subsequently on the Physiotherapy Council of New South Wales, for more than 10 years. She has led Westmead’s physiotherapy unit for the past 17 years, a role she held previously at Auburn Hospital.

Her leadership style and efforts in championing the profession, and junior and graduate physiotherapists across many years, was acknowledged with a Contribution to the Profession accolade at last year’s New South Wales Branch Awards. Such recognition still humbles the recipient.

‘This award means a great deal to me as I am not a high-profile person, just someone who works consistently and persistently in the workplace to achieve things. To think that somebody, a peer, thought a lot about the work I have done and me as a person is quite lovely,’ Maria says. ‘But I am really thrilled to think that someone in the public sector was acknowledged.’

The annual awards recognise physiotherapists for varying and deserving contributions at different stages of their career in four categories:

  • Contribution to the profession
  • Contribution to the APA by a recent graduate (five years or less since graduation)
  • Contribution to an APA regional or national group
  • Contribution to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health.

Maria’s nominator remains anonymous. In presenting the award, organisers described her as ‘an inspiration to many emerging leaders in the physiotherapy profession, nurturing [them] through individual supervision and mentorship and also supporting staff in their application to growth opportunities… [and] a tireless champion of the APA, seeking to promote the benefits of membership and the Association whenever and wherever possible.’

As a driver of innovation, education and research, Maria has mentored and supported staff in undertaking master’s and PhD studies, completed the NSW Health Clinical Redesign Program, and has been integral to improving health services in Western Sydney. Her work with education providers ensures New South Wales graduates have access to a thriving program. She believes the awards are important in promoting and advancing the profession, and encourages others to join her in submitting a nomination.

‘It’s always great to see people in the profession doing so well and being acknowledged for their efforts,’ she says.

‘There are many different health professional groups out there. Sometimes our professional identity can get lost in the mix. This APA initiative provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the substantial contribution that physiotherapists make to healthcare across the lifespan and, with ever-growing frequency, across all clinical specialties. Celebrating efforts in research, education, and clinical excellence and practice can help create an environment in which others are stimulated to excel and make a difference. I’ll definitely be nominating someone.’

All awards will be presented at the New South Wales Branch Awards and Dinner in November.

Date: Friday 14 November
Venue: Epping Club, Rawson Street, Epping
Time: 6.00 pm – 10.00 pm
Presenter: Associate Professor Damien Finniss, Pain Management Research Institute and Department of Anaesthesia, University of Sydney and Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney.
Topic: Honest use of placebo in clinical practice– bringing the science to the bedside.

Click here to nominate. For more information, email Jenny.Robertson@australian.physio.


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