AFR Women of Influence winners

Professor Julie Leask, Professional Fellow with the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) has been named overall winner of the Australian Financial Review Women of Influence Awards and Associate Professor Tracey O’Brien, Director of the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick and has won the Innovation category.

Each year, the Australian Financial Review’s prestigious 100 Women of Influence Awards recognise the most influential, inspirational and visionary women. Associate Professor O’Brien and Professor Leask were awarded for their important contribution to improving the lives of sick children and contributions to global research.

Professor Julie Leask has played a pivotal role in research into the social and behavioural aspects of vaccinations. She is dedicated to increasing the take-up of vaccination by focusing on the root cause of why families don’t vaccinate. Beginning her career in nursing, Julie moved into a research role and has since been recognised for many prestigious achievements in research.

A member of the Australian Regional Immunisation Alliance (ARIA), Julie also holds formal roles with the World Health Organisation and WHO/Europe. She is also a founding member of the Vaccination Acceptance Research Network, aiming to strengthen the evidence base for increasing the acceptance of vaccines.

In her roles at the University of Sydney and NCIRS, Prof Leask has worked closely with the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network on a variety of projects and has been influential in helping to reduce vaccine-preventable diseases in children.

A/Prof Tracey O’Brien was named one of Australia's 11 most influential women, winning the Innovation category of the AFR’s 100 Women of Influence Awards. Tracey has been working in paediatric oncology for more than 20 years, caring for children and families affected by cancer while driving life-changing cancer research and training our medical professionals of the future.

“It is humbling to be awarded the winner in the Innovation category and share the stage with such other inspirational women across diverse industries,” A/Prof O’Brien said.

“Innovation is a word that is often misinterpreted. It is not about paradigm shifting or disrupting ideas, it is about doing something better or smarter. Every member of the Kids Cancer Centre innovates everyday they come to work to try and do better than they did the day before. It is my job as leader to try and harness this, scale it up, ensure sufficient knowledge transfer and make it sustainable. It is the small improvements that add up to innovative change. In healthcare we are all innovators and all have a role to play.”

A key force behind the globally recognised Zero Childhood Cancer precision medicine program, Tracey is committed to working with colleagues to ultimately find a cure for all children with cancer.

“Research underpins everything I do in treating children with cancer. My job is to push the envelope, always aiming to deliver tomorrow’s care today and never accepting anything less than excellence. It is what I would want for my children and it’s what every child with cancer deserves,” said A/Prof O’Brien.

“I am more excited about future possibilities than ever before. Breakthroughs in genomics and better understanding of how cancers grow, targeted drugs that reduce side-effects and even living drugs that harness the power of the body’s own immune system to fight cancer are all having a great impact, improving the lives of children with cancer.”