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BSc MBChB MD FRACP FAFRM
Dinah was born in England but migrated to New Zealand with her parents at the age of 5 years. After living in a number of different locations, the family settled in Dunedin, where Dinah graduated in Medicine from the University of Otago in 1971. Following a resident year at Invercargill, she obtained a position at Dunedin Hospital. There Dinah was fortunate to receive wonderful teaching and mentorship from Graeme Barnes, who was instrumental in helping her to pass the Part 1 FRACP. Then followed a six month break when Dinah travelled to England on a cargo ship, undertaking the challenging role of ship’s doctor for the 53 crew and 12 elderly passengers. The medicolegal risks must have been many but fortunately both the crew and passengers all survived the protracted journey!!
In the meantime, Dinah was successful in obtaining a registrar position at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. Being Admitting Officer on the first night on call, after the 3-10 patients in Dunedin’s Wakari Hospital’s paediatric ward, presented its own insights into the variations between paediatric practice in different settings. Dinah went on to spend three years at the Royal Children’s Hospital, completing her FRACP and undertaking the role of Clinical Supervisor, which involved organising medical students and providing resources for them, in those days “tape-slide programs”.
Then followed two years in England where she worked as a Senior Clinical Medical Officer in the West Midlands of England and Lecturer in Paediatrics and Child Health at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, again providing more insights into the spectrum of paediatric disease and service provision. By the end of 1981, Dinah was ready to return to the Southern Hemisphere with the difficult choice of deciding whether to practice in Australia or New Zealand. By that time, she had become very interested in childhood disability and there seemed to be more opportunities to pursue this in depth in Australia. She was encouraged and mentored by John Court who had established a department of developmental paediatrics where there were dual programs of childhood disability and adolescent medicine. She returned to his department as a junior consultant.
In 1986, two separate departments were formed with John Court leading adolescent medicine and Dinah becoming director of the department which was renamed Child Development and Rehabilitation and later Developmental Medicine, retaining that position until early 2011.
Dr John Court had encouraged her to commence a research program. This was slow to develop in the early stages but eventually grew as collaborations with researchers in and outside of the Royal Children’s Hospital developed. The program focused on improving knowledge and best practice in the care of children with disabilities, particularly cerebral palsy. One of the early initiatives was the establishment of the Victorian Cerebral Palsy Register which is now known internationally for its size (over 6300 participants), longevity (established 1987) and for the unique opportunity that it provides to study cerebral palsy across the lifespan. The Victorian Cerebral Palsy Register has so far generated 153 publications from 141 studies across almost every discipline. It has formed the basis of important work undertaken by the Orthopaedic department (particularly Kerr Graham) to establish hip surveillance guidelines for the care of young people with cerebral palsy. The Register has been used by 53 higher degree studies to support their studies. Achievements in recent years have largely been due to the Manager and Senior Research Officer on the project, Dr Sue Reid.
Dinah has been a Chief Investigator on 12 NHMRC grants including most recently Chief Investigator A on two Centres of Research Excellence – a Centre of Research Excellence in Cerebral Palsy (2014-18) and the Australian Centre for Health, Independence, Economic Participation and Value Enhanced Care for adolescents and young adults with cerebral palsy (CP-Achieve) (2020-24). These Centres of Research Excellence in particular have provided opportunities for training doctoral and postdoctoral students.
Formation of the Australasian Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine
Dinah enjoyed the stimulus of attending overseas meetings and engaging with international colleagues, and was concerned that Australian researchers, particularly in their early years, might not have the opportunity to undertake such travel. Therefore in 2002, with the support of Anne McCoy, she established the Australasian Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, which is aligned with similar organisations in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, and was one of the three founding academies in the International Alliance of Academies of Childhood Disability.
Sustainability into the future
Dinah was aware that it was vital to ensure the sustainability of the growing research program and established Solve! At the RCH with the purpose of promoting disability research and raising funds. She invited Bruce Bonyhady (parent of two children with cerebral palsy) to chair this group which included the late Robert Dickens and Katie O’Callaghan. With the support of Campus partners and the leadership of Glenn Bowes, Solve! At the RCH was responsible advocating for the first University Chair in Developmental Medicine in Australia. This was established in 2011, with funding from the Apex Foundation for Research into Intellectual Disability (with the help of Peter Watts) and the RCH Foundation. Several years later in 2016, a generous donation from the Lorenzo and Pamela Galli Medical Research Trust resulted in the establishment of a second Chair. These professorial chairs ensure that research into the causes and optimal treatments of development disability will be sustained into the future.
1999 Australian Cerebral Palsy Association Distinguished Service Medal
2000 The Royal Children's Hospital Gold Medal
2005 AO – Honorary Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia
2012 Australasian Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine Living Legend Award – Founding President and Chair of Board 2002-2007.
2014 Health Lifetime Achievement Award – Victorian Public Healthcare Awards
2016 Howard Williams Orator and Medal
2016 The Vernon Collins Oration and Medal, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne
2020 The Elizabeth Turner Medal, Royal Children’s Hospital
Family and current interests
Dinah has been the primary carer for three grandchildren for a number of years. She enjoyed many outback 4WD adventures with Don, her late husband. Dinah is a long-time member of Wesley Church Melbourne and has served as Chair of the Church Council for several extended periods. When she has time, she enjoys cooking, gardening and catching up with friends.
Much still needs to be done in the field of childhood (and adult) disability. Teamwork is of prime importance and most of her life has been spent learning from others – her colleagues, members of the multidisciplinary team and collaborators nationally and internationally, but above all, from young people with disabilities and their families.