Leadership & Management

First female president to lead orthopaedics association in 85 years

Health Industry Hub | November 12, 2021 |
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Leadership & Management: The first female has been appointed to lead Australia’s 1,800 orthopaedic surgeons elected as Australian Orthopaedic Association president since the foundation of the association in 1936.

Speaking about the historic appointment, Dr Annette Holian said “The progress of diversity within the orthopaedic profession is a passion that I intend to help advance during my presidency. We have identified areas of bias against women in training, and we will actively work towards bringing equity in every area where we have influence. It is my hope that the rate of change that we are seeing within the profession accelerates as the value of diversity at all levels in orthopaedics becomes better understood.”

Interestingly, according to the RACS Indigenous Health Committee data from 2020, Australia has three indigenous surgeons and five indigenous surgical trainees; three of whom are in orthopaedic training. There are no qualified indigenous orthopaedic surgeons. Diversity is essential to create strong organisations that maximise their membership’s talents and skills.

Dr Holian added “My door is open to all orthopaedic colleagues, but especially to the women who are considering a career in orthopaedics or who have undertaken the training program. The need to support these trainees developing their full potential as consultants is essential, enabling our profession to more accurately represent the community we serve.”

Environmental sustainability, rural health equity, education including the need for surgical coaching and increasing the wellbeing of surgeons are just some of the other platforms that Dr Holian wishes to promote during her tenure.

The appointment marks a new era for orthopaedics in Australia, outgoing President Dr Michael Gillespie said “Dr Holian is an accomplished orthopaedic surgeon who has paved the way and mentored many in orthopaedics. Annette’s personal achievements and advancements to the profession are considerable and speak volumes about the passion she has in raising up the profession as a whole. I am extremely pleased that
Annette is the first ever female to become President of the AOA.”

Dr Holian represents one of just 73 female orthopaedic surgeons in Australia. “The percentage of orthopaedic consultants who are women is now over 5% which can be seen as still low but we have made great advances over the past decade. It is encouraging to see that the proportion of female trainees is much higher with the 2022 cohort representing 22%,” Dr Holian commented.

Women were first accepted into the Australian orthopaedic training program commencing in 1986 and Dr Holian was one of the two women who started her training that year. 

Dr Holian is Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma surgeon at Monash Children’s Hospital and has held a number of leadership positions within surgery, including being elected to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) Council where she is currently the Chair of the Board of Surgical Education and Training. Annette has served on the RACS Trauma committee and was Chair of the Military Surgery section. As a current reservist in the Royal Australian Air Force, she holds the rank of Group Captain and is the Clinical Director for Surgery and Preoperative Services for RAAF.

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