Stroke Care Champion Award

Stroke Care Champion Award 

(in conjunction with the Stroke Society of Australasia): The Stroke Care Champion Award is a way to recognise health professionals working tirelessly to improve the lives of stroke survivors, their families and carers. We want them to know that their contribution to the lives of stroke patients, survivors and carers is vital and does not go unnoticed. The award is open to health professionals and social care professionals who have demonstrated a long term commitment of at least five years in the field of stroke. 

Dr Mark Mackay – Stroke Care Champion winner

Dr Mark Mackay regularly sees the devastating impact stroke has on babies, children and their families working as a Neurologist at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

An ardent advocate for ensuring children receive the benefits of advances in stroke care and recovery, Dr Mackay saw a need to develop national clinical guidelines on the diagnosis and management of perinatal and childhood stroke.

Over and above his hectic daily schedule of looking after patients and their families, Dr Mackay secured much-needed philanthropic funding to cover the costs of developing these vital guidelines.

Once these groundbreaking guidelines are rolled out, they ensure all newborns and children can receive consistent care in Australia's paediatric centres, reducing brain injury and vastly enhancing the quality of life for these courageous young stroke survivors. Dr Mackay’s work will facilitate the earlier detection and diagnosis of childhood stroke as well as aiding recovery and reducing secondary strokes.

Dr Mackay’s unrelenting passion for improving the quality of care of our youngest stroke patients and increasing national awareness of childhood stroke is truly inspirational.

Read our interview with Dr Mark Mackay

Dr Ruth Barker – Stroke Care Champion finalist

Dr Ruth Barker has devoted her life’s mission to finding ways to enhance recovery, and improve the quality of life of stroke survivors. Her dedication, can-do attitude, and enthusiasm have inspired many.

As a physiotherapist, a researcher and Associate Professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Dr Barker strives to improve the lives of stroke survivors through her research, technology developments, and teaching.

In 2011 Dr Barker developed the Community Rehabilitation North Queensland (CRNQ) service. Her vision led to rural and regional stroke survivors accessing high quality rehabilitation services for the first time.

As lead inventor of the SMART Arm, it is Dr Barker’s dream to see the device available for use by all stroke survivors to improve their chance of recovering arm function. In June 2013 it was showcased on ABC TV’s Catalyst program and when commercially available, it could immeasurable improve outcomes for stroke survivors.

Through developing the ‘Drive Your Own Recovery After Stroke Program’ Dr Barker taught the program to Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists and stroke survivors nationwide and internationally, and is now collaborating with researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada to develop an implementation research project.

Despite Dr Barker’s extremely busy schedule, she is always approachable and makes herself available to help others in any way she can. She is an outstanding role model for health professionals and she continues to inspire others to contribute to bettering the lives of stroke survivors.

Read our interview with Dr Ruth Barker

Carolyn Beltrame - Stroke Care Champion finalist

Gippsland nurse Carolyn Beltrame works tirelessly in driving best practice stroke care for patients in rural and regional areas.

As a Registered Nurse in the Emergency Department at the La Trobe Regional Hospital, Carolyn goes above and beyond to ensure that stroke patients in the Gippsland area get the care they need and deserve. 

In 2010, she introduced new treatments and practices to improve the service offered to stroke patients. Thanks to Carolyn’s efforts, local stroke patients are now CT scanned as soon as they arrive in hospital and gain fast access to disability-reducing clot-busting drugs (thrombolysis). Through her work to promote the early recognition and treatment of stroke, patients in Gippsland are not disadvantaged because they live in a regional area. 

Carolyn regularly educates her fellow nursing staff, the ambulance service and doctors, working with them to ensure all patients are treated quickly and efficiently with attention to detail and care. She often works after hours attending her patients and strives to achieve gold standard practice in her profession.

Brain Waves – Stroke Care Champion finalist

Stroke survivors and carers are always front of mind for the Brain Waves team at Monash Health Community Rehabilitation Service.

Listening to stroke survivors and their carers needs, led to the development of an innovative, multi-disciplinary new stroke education program.

A team of occupational therapists, neuropsychologists, speech pathologists, social workers, physiotherapists and dieticians came together from different community locations to collaborate on this project. 

At times the complexity of the project seemed overwhelming but the disciplined and determined team were energized by the positive feedback they received from stroke survivors about the education program.

Ultimately, seeing stroke survivors empowered with the knowledge to understand their condition and taking steps to reclaim their lives is what motivates and truly inspires the Brain Waves program team.

Read our interview with the Brain Waves team


Kaia Leo – Stroke Care Champion

Caboolture Hospital’s speech pathologist, Kaia Leo is passionate about improving the stroke journey for patients. 

She’s been instrumental in working closely with emergency department staff to quickly identify stroke patients as they arrive and ensure they receive the services they need. Kaia is the first person staff call to review stroke patients, leading to better recovery outcomes.

A lack of specialist stroke staff in the unit is no barrier to Kaia. She led the implementation of improved systems, bringing greater cohesiveness in how staff communicate with stroke patients. 

Kaia championed work to support stroke patients who have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). She drove the rollout of dysphagia screening processes within Caboolture Hospital and established a tele-practice dysphagia assessment service to Kilcoy Hospital (a small rural facility serviced by Caboolture Hospital).

Kaia regularly works late to see her stroke patients, as she knows and cares that they would not otherwise receive a service until the following working day. 

A quiet achiever who never seeks attention for a job well done, Kaia’s dedication to stroke survivors has earned her enormous respect from her clinical colleagues across allied health, nursing and medical services. 


Beverley MacDonald – Stroke Care Champion finalist

Her colleagues say she’s regularly the last person in the stroke unit to leave at the end of the day. 

As a Stroke Liaison Nurse at Campbelltown Hospital Neurology Ward, Beverley Macdonald is the ‘glue’ that unites the stroke team and ensures patients receive the best care possible. 

Within the hospital, Beverley set up an outpatients post-stroke clinic aimed at secondary stroke prevention and has championed a holistic approach to patient care. She is highly trusted by patients and their families.

No deed, big or small is beyond her capability and she’ll go the extra mile. Although based at Campbelltown Hospital, Beverley regularly visits the Camden Rehabilitation Unit, offering vital support to patients and their families.

Hard-working, compassionate and determined, Beverley is instrumental in ensuring nursing staff are knowledgeable and informed of the latest stroke practices and supported in delivering excellent care. In addition, she has arranged and organised many stroke education and awareness days. Always generous with her time she can often be found on the ward assisting nursing or medical students. 
Read our interview with Beverley MacDonald

Winner and finalists Stroke Care Champion Award 2015

Dr Rohan Grimely (QLD) – (winner)
Alisha Anderson (WA)
Larissa Andriske (VIC)
Dr Lavinia Codd (QLD)
Sarah Kuhle (QLD)
Rachel Peake (NSW)
Barbara Wolfenden (VIC)