My job is to enable clinicians to do a great job every day
In February Sydney Local Health District’s new Executive Director Medical Services Andrew Hallahan was planning for the coronavirus pandemic in Queensland Health. In July, he’ll be joining our response team, returning to the Local Health District where he trained to become a doctor more than 30 years ago.
The Associate Professor who specialised in treating cancer in children says he “just knew” he wanted to become a doctor from a very early age.
Andrew graduated from the University of Sydney in 1991 with first class honours, training in research at RPA before being appointed as an intern and resident medical officer at Concord Hospital. He went on to work at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, before leaving Australia in 1998 to become an Oncology Fellow and
Assistant Professor at the Seattle Children’s Hospital, the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.
It was there, that a 15 year old boy changed the way the doctor cared for his patients.
“As a clinician/oncologist – there were a number of children I looked after who did well – and there were some who did not survive. I learnt most from the most difficult situations.
One of the most difficult cases was a teenager who had multiple relapses.
“He taught me to listen,” Andrew reflects.
“But he made me understand what he wanted as a patient and respect that. He eventually died of his disease but he made his own choices and decisions about his care.
When Andrew returned to Australia in 2005 he continued to work as a paediatric oncologist and researcher at the Royal Children’s Hospital, but his interest was shifting to complex systems and executive management. He was appointed the Executive Director of Medical Services for Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service.
Then the opportunity came up to apply for a job back where it all began.
“It intrigued me… it feels good to be coming home.
Passionate about wellbeing and supporting frontline staff to be at their best for patients, the father of two says he has taken opportunities when he has stepped away from work during the coronavirus pandemic to spend time with his family.
“We listened to some fairly old music,” he said.
“It’s tragic I know,” he quipped, “but we have spent a bit of time listening to Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles. (Including his favourite, Yellow Submarine).
Taste in music aside, he will be bringing lessons learned from the COVID-19 response with him to Sydney Local Health District.
“We have done things we talked about for a long time,” he said.
“The pandemic has given us a clarity of focus… we learnt we can choose to make change quickly and effectively.
While seemingly humble about his vast experience and career in health, Andrew says he’s someone who is here to listen.
“While I am reasonably results driven, I am someone who listens, who is curious and who wants to understand other people,” he says.
“Health is about people... our job is to make sure that our clinicians are supported to care for the community. My job is to enable clinicians to do a great job every day.”
Andrew will begin his new role in Sydney Local Health District on 27 July.