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Celebrating inspiring women at Austin Health

8 March 2021

In honour of International Women’s Day, we celebrated the achievements of five inspirational women that make Austin Health a great place to work.

We spoke to some of them about how it feels to be recognised: 

See below the full list of our 'Inspirational Women' award recipients: 

Georgina Olekalns

A/Prof Elif Ekinci is the Director of Diabetes at Austin Health, as well as a Sir Edward Weary Dunlop Principal Research Fellow in Metabolic Medicine at the University of Melbourne.

Elif has been recognised for her extensive professional achievements, as well as passionately leading research that is significantly improving clinical practice, and health outcomes for people with diabetes.

Elif was nominated by fellow Endocrinologist, Dr Niloufar Torkamani, who shared this story about Elif that inspires them. 

“When Elif left Turkey and arrived in Melbourne at the age of 10, she didn’t speak a word of English. Living with her family in a one-bedroom unit and then a housing commission flat, she grew up seeing drug dealers and overdoses on her way to school. With help from an amazing teacher, she soon skipped a year of school - and today, the mum of three young kids is Head of Diabetes at Austin Health,” says Dr Torkomani.

They explain how dedicated Elif is to improving the health of people with diabetes.

“Every year she leaves her three small children for a month and goes to remote, central Aboriginal communities and dedicates her time to patients with diabetes.

“Her research is helping to transform the health of thousands of people and close the gap in remote Indigenous communities, where Aboriginal people are dying of diabetes and diabetes related complications,” says Dr Torkamani.

Tegan Bell

Michelle Topple is the Nurse Unit Manager of our Intensive Care Unit.

She has been nominated by Divisional Director Medical Services, Liz Murdoch, and Divisional Manager of ICU, Sharon Walsh, for typifying excellence in her role as a nursing leader.

Sharon and Liz say that in under two years since Michelle has been in her role, she has managed to rapidly and creatively address a nursing workforce shortage in the unit.

“It’s because of Michelle our ICU has a fully recruited workforce and queue of keen critical care care nurses wanting an opportunity to work here. By creating an environment like this she has optimised access to quality care for our patients,” said Sharon and Liz.

She is described as “calm, compassionate, team focused, incredibly hard working, not afraid of challenges and a wonderful people leader. She’s always humble, always thinking about our people, and what can be done better.” 

Michelle Topple

Dr Julie Lokan is an Anatomical Pathologist at Austin Health.

Her colleagues describes her as a “super-accomplished woman who makes it all look easy!”

Julie has spent most of the past 22 years honing her skills and, in particular, has become the “go to” liver pathologist handling cases from all over Victoria and interstate. This is in addition to being a specialised neuropathologist and gastrointestinal pathologist.

She’s also a very accomplished cellist, playing in a regular quartet, the Australian Doctors’ Orchestra and Corpus Medicorum.

She was nominated by Dr Kate Stewart for inspiring others with her incredible achievements and for mentoring and supporting her colleagues.

“She’s managed to achieve all of this while raising three children, with a partner who is also a pathologist.

“Julie has always been incredibly helpful, friendly and supportive, particularly to me as her junior. She has always been one to help others up the ladder without a moment’s thought, while being humble about her achievements,” says Dr Stewart. ​​​​​​​

Tegan Bell is an Occupational Therapist at Austin Health.

She has been recognised for her phenomenal leadership, and for bringing out the best in everyone around her.

Her colleague, Occupational Therapist Emma Tindill, nominated Tegan and says that her calm, collected and approachable nature is inspirational.

“This has resulted in everyone striving to do better and wanting to collaborate, problem solve together and contribute to the culture of strong work ethic which Tegan has created,” says Emma.  

“Tegan gives 100 per cent at all times and is the unofficial 'go-to' person in the Acute Occupational Therapy department for any questions.

"Many of us are amazed at how Tegan gets all her work done whilst also helping us with personal, clinical and non-clinical issues at any time of the day - and she does this with a smile on her face, never seemingly being frustrated or flustered!”

Tegan is described as very empathetic and always makes the time to ensure that patients and their families feel heard and that someone cares. 

Julie Lokan

Georgina Olekalns is a Senior Social Worker and Family Therapist within Austin Health’s Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS).

She has dedicated over 30 years of her professional career to supporting and helping distressed young people and their families.

Mental Health Clinician, Brenton Carey, nominated Georgina for her enormous contribution to the personal development of thousands of young people, as well as nurturing and supporting the professional development of her colleagues.

“Georgina goes above and beyond to help young people re-engage with school, discover new passions and find new ways to relate to family and friends.

“She is able to manage even the most difficult and distressing of situations in a forthright, thoughtful and respectful manner, which is incredibly inspiring,” says Brenton.

Brenton also shares that Georgina is very generous in sharing her wealth of experience and champions an open-door policy. 

“In so doing she’s contributed to the professional development of countless clinicians.”