Alice Springs physician nets international stroke award

August 28, 2023

An Alice Springs specialist physician has been recognised for her tireless work in improving the health outcomes of Aboriginal Australians after stroke, winning the prestigious 2023 Stroke Care Champion Award at the Smart Strokes Nursing and Allied Health Conference and 32nd Annual Scientific Meeting of the Stroke Society of Australasia. 

Dr Anna Holwell is the Head of Department Medicine at Alice Springs Hospital. She has been championing stroke care in Central Australia for a decade and is responsible for establishing the stroke and heart high dependency unit which provides critical care to patients in the region. 

In being nominated for the award, Dr Holwell was described as having a remarkable passion, tireless dedication, and a drive for improving stroke care in rural Australia. 

Her achievements include establishing thrombolysis, telestroke and stroke protocols, developing a position for the hospital's first dedicated Stroke Nurse and assisting junior doctors in undertaking stroke research, including developing a prospective stroke database at Alice Springs Hospital in collaboration with local Aboriginal stakeholders. Further, she recently led her hospital to become one of the first Stroke Capable Regional General Hospitals certified nationally.  

Stroke Society of Australasia President Professor Timothy Kleinig said Dr Holwell has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to stroke care in rural Australia.  

“Dr Holwell has shown a dedication to delivering culturally appropriate care to Aboriginal Australians, by working collaboratively with Aboriginal communities and representative. This is particularly significant as around a third of the local population is Aboriginal; these residents experience greater rates of stroke at younger ages,” Professor Kleinig said.  

“Dr Holwell is also responsible for delivering gold-standard care to an area of Australia which is located more than 1,500 kilometres away from the nearest comprehensive stroke centre. Her work has already had a huge impact on stroke survivors in the region, and she will continue to transform care for patients with stroke in Australia.” 

Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Dr Lisa Murphy congratulated Dr Holwell on her achievement and thanked her for her dedication to the field of stroke.  

“Dr Holwell is such a worthy recipient for this award. We know Aboriginal people are 1.5 times more likely to die from stroke than non-Indigenous Australians, and stroke is the sixth leading cause of death in Indigenous Australia,” Dr Murphy said.  

“By providing exceptional care in regional areas, Dr Holwell is helping bridge the divide in health outcomes and changing the state of stroke in rural Australia for generations to come.” 

The Smart Strokes Nursing and Allied Health Conference and 32nd Annual Scientific Meeting of the Stroke Society of Australasia was held in Melbourne and finished today. It brought together stroke experts from across the world to showcase the latest innovations in stroke prevention, treatment, and recovery.  

The finalists for the Stroke Care Champion award are:

  • Belinda Stojanovski 
  • Estelle Hamson 
  • Laura King 
  • Lauren Arthurson 
  • Professor Julie Bernhardt 
  • Lynelle Ngakuru