Stroke Care Champion Award

Nominations are now open for the 2019 Stroke Care Champion Award.
Make a nomination

The Stroke Care Champion Award shines a light on health professionals and researchers working tirelessly to improve the lives of survivors, their families and carers. Held in conjunction with the Stroke Society of Australasia, the Stroke Care Champion 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.

The winner will be announced at Stroke 2019: The 29th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Stroke Society of Australasia in Canberra during September.

2018 Winner

Lizzie Dodd - Stroke Nurse Consultant, Royal Adelaide Hospital (South Australia)

Lizzie Dodd

What does being a finalist for the Stroke Care Champion award mean to you?

I am part of a team where we all are champions in making sure patients receive the best and fastest hyper-acute care on arrival to hospital. It is very humbling to be singled out. I love the work I do and the difference I can make to someone’s recovery and treatment options. 

What inspired you to follow this career path?

I went into stroke nursing almost by accident after being asked by my chief executive officer to set up an acute stroke unit. This was when stroke units were in their infancy. I loved the difference a specialist unit could make.  New treatment options and the latest research, especially in hyper-acute management, make such a difference in offering a chance of life without disability. 

What difference do you hope you can make in the field of stroke?

Every day is new and exciting, with many challenges and complex patients. I am one of the first stroke team members a patient sees as they arrive by ambulance. Our aim is to save the brain and get them to the acute stroke unit as quickly as possible. I assess, whisk them off to radiology, hold their hand and tell them what is happening.

I work hard to enrol as many patients as possible into our trials.

Whenever possible, I also educate the emergency department and radiology nurses on how to rapidly assess stroke patients and discuss treatment options. I lead by example, demonstrating how nurses can make a difference to a patient’s journey by the way we speak to them and look after them. I hope I can inspire my colleagues with my passion and skills in managing and caring for our patients. We need a new generation of young minds with the in-depth skills to carry on this amazing work.


Finalists 2018

Dr Bill O’Brien Stroke Neurologist, Central Coast Local Health District (NSW)

Bill O'Brien

What does being a finalist for the Stroke Care Champion award mean to you?

It is lovely to be put forward. I enjoy what I do and get great personal satisfaction from being involved with stroke care services in general. I am involved with an extensive network of people all working towards a common goal which makes it very rewarding. Getting a specific mention within that team is great.

What inspired you to follow this career path?

I was lucky to be exposed to acute stroke and the impact that acute therpies can make. One good outcome and I was hooked on trying to replicate it again.

What difference do you hope you can make in the field of stroke?

My aim is to introduce as many of my colleagues, junior doctors in particular, to a very rewarding area of medicine and to dispel the fears associated with acute neurology.


Greg Cadigan - Statewide Stroke Clinical Network Coordinator, Department of Health (Queensland)

Greg Cadigan

What does being a finalist for the Stroke Care Champion award mean to you?

I am honoured my efforts have been seen as making a significant difference to stroke care in Queensland. This nomination represents the efforts of a committed group of like-minded clinicians wanting to make a difference. I hope my nomination is seen as recognition of all our hard work across the state.

What inspired you to follow this career path?

As a registered nurse with a keen interest in neurology (some 18 years ago), I decided to further my studies in neurosciences while working in intensive care units with a particular interest in stroke. To further my career and clinical interest in 2009, I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to coordinate the Queensland Statewide Stroke Clinical Network. This provided me with the vehicle to contribute to the improvement of stroke care delivery.

Who inspires you?

I don’t need to look far to be inspired.  My biggest inspiration comes from the Chair of the Statewide Stroke Clinical Network – Dr Rohan Grimley (2015 Stroke Care Champion Award winner). Rohan and I have now been working together for more than 10 years. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Rohan’s drive, enthusiasm and commitment to deliver the best possible stroke care across the state. Rohan’s relentless push to change the ‘status quo’ is why we continue to evolve as a network.

It’s inspiring to think about the significant statewide improvement we have achieved. Queensland has have gone from the worst performing state to a leading state in quality improvement and stroke management.

I am also extremely fortunate to work alongside some extraordinary Queensland clinicians and health professionals who are committed to supporting and driving key service improvements.


Angela Firtko -  Stroke Clinical Nurse Consultant, South Western Sydney LHD (NSW)

 Angela Firtko

What inspired you to follow this career path?

Sadly, I lost my grandfather over 15 years ago after many strokes. He was significantly disabled and we cared for him for more than 10 years at home. Having a personal connection to stroke definitely inspired me to become a stroke nurse. I knew by becoming a clinical nurse consultant I could work hard to promote best practice and improve stroke care across South Western Sydney and beyond.

I wanted to be a nurse from the age of five, and it is the most rewarding career. Caring for others is a real privilege and working with dedicated health clinicians is the reason why I chose this path.

What difference do you hope you can make in the field of stroke?

I am dedicating my nursing career to stroke.

My goal is to make sure all patients have access to streamlined services, starting with time-critical therapies to rehabilitation, secondary prevention and then connection in the community through stroke recovery groups and the Stroke Foundation.

I am passionate and enthusiastic to drive my team to ensure we meet international best practice to ultimately improve stroke survivor outcomes and promote the best possible systems and processes.

What do you think will be the next game changer in stroke?

It’s a tough question to answer because so much wonderful work is being done across Australia and the world.

From a technical perspective, I think we may see robotics in rehab. While from an acute stroke perspective, technology will improve access to smaller vessels for endovascular thrombectomy. The windows for this treatment may widen even further than 24 hours.

I feel more collaboration and engagement will occur with ambulance services. This includes communicating with paramedics to find our more information about a patient prior to them reaching the emergency department.


Kym Heine - Community Nurse Consultant, Neurological Council of Western Australia (WA)

What does being a finalist for the Stroke Care Champion award mean to you?

It is a real achievement. The recognition of being in the same company as some major innovators and excellent care providers inspires me to carry on doing the best I can in this area. I am practising in a really under recognised area of Western Australia, but the impact of stroke is real. I am doing what I can to join services, identify gaps and look creatively and practically to join them in whatever way I can.

Who inspires you?

Those living with the impact of stroke. The positivity in this space inspires me each day to be a better provider of stroke care and support. I have clients who have embraced the technology of teleneurocare in their own home with enthusiasm - some are in their 90s. I also work with a great team of inspiring professionals.

What difference do you hope you can make in the field of stroke?

The work being done in prevention, early detection, treatment and rehabilitation is excellent, however the stroke recovery journey can be long and arduous. It is often after the focused support ends that people really reflect on what has happened.  Survivors need good quality support in their own home to continue the recovery pathway, stay positive and focused. Without this community support, the excellent work done early in the event may not achieve the same long-term outcomes.

The area I practice in is geographically large with limited resources and yet we have a high percentage of younger strokes. My work focuses on linking in, educating, putting what has happened into perspective, allowing recovery to continue and being there! This can often be physically or via telecommunications. I am a real advocate for this and do what I can to encourage and support connectivity on many different levels.



A/Prof Dr Edward Strivens - Clinical Director for Older Persons, Acute Stroke and Rehabilitation, Cairns and Hinterland hospital (QLD)

Edward Strivens

What inspired you to follow this career path?

My main work has always been with older people and there’s a privilege that comes with being able to improve function and quality of life within this sometimes neglected group. I’ve had strong older role models throughout my life and have always enjoyed working within a multidisciplinary team. 

What difference do you hope you can make in the field of stroke?

Hopefully we can continue to build both the hyperacute, acute and rehabilitation services for stroke in Cairns and Far North Queensland. The integrated stroke model here with co-location on acute and rehab services has worked well as a model for a regional centre. Hopefully we can expand stroke thrombolysis services via our smaller hospitals and telehealth in the near future.

What do you think will be the next game changer in stroke?

Expanding clot removal services to regional Australia is both a game changer and a major challenge for locations such as Cairns and beyond. On a less technological front, I’m also very excited about the development and rollout of community-based rehab services and stroke services specific to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients in Far North Queensland, Cape York and the Torres Strait


Professor Tissa Wijeratne - Director/Head of Neurology, Western Health (VIC)

Do you have a personal connection to stroke?

I grew up in rural Sri Lanka. I was very close to my paternal grandfather who suffered from a massive stroke when I was a child. There was no formal stroke care as such at that time. I subsequently went on to set up a state of the art stroke service in this rural city in 2011 with the help of my colleagues in Melbourne as well as in Sri Lanka.

What difference do you hope you can make in the field of stroke?

Many strokes are preventable and this is still the hardest goal to achieve. I am determined to work with the Stroke Foundation, Stroke Society Australasia and Department of Education to see how we get this fixed, targeting the younger population. I am in the process of building a strong network to get this done in the coming years.

What do you think will be the next game changer in stroke?

Precision neurology in stroke care is the next game changer. We will select different stroke patients for different reperfusion options. This is also going to be the case with stroke prevention too. Patient centered communication skills will help us to offer precise preventative approaches, saving brains.