On the frontline

Healthcare professionals serving the community
Alumni from the University of Sydney are working tirelessly on the frontline to maintain the health and wellbeing of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From Alice Springs and Utah to Kalgoorlie and Vancouver, we have tens of thousands of alumni working in all sorts of healthcare roles around the world. Whether they are on the frontline, providing regular service to patients or completing research, each person has a vital role to play. Hear about their experiences and learn what inspires them during this difficult time.

Our healthcare heroes

Alumna Kudzai Kanhutu

Dr Kudzai Kanhutu, Infectious Disease Physician, Deputy Chief Medical Information Officer, Royal Melbourne Hospital

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

"It's as if the world is in a state of suspended animation. At the same time we are bracing for the storm, a lot of our healthcare services have been eerily deserted. Experts have suddenly been confronted with their own vulnerability, mental exhaustion and the vicarious trauma of watching colleagues and friends die overseas. The struggle to anchor oneself whilst trying to support and inform those around you is at times overwhelming."

Alumnus Christopher Hidayat

Christopher Hidayat, Specialist Pharmacist , Emergency Medicine, Westmead Hospital 

Bachelor of Pharmacy (Honours) 

"I remember just over a month ago being asked to help set up the COVID-19 testing clinic at Westmead on very short notice and within half the day it was ready to go.

"This is a time our health system needs us most and we need as many healthcare workers on board even if it is not on the frontline dealing with COVID-19 because there will still be patients with other health problems who will be needing our help."


Rachel Chang

Rachel Chang, Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Herbalist at San Ming Wellness

Bachelor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Master of Brain and Mind Sciences

"At a time when all resources are focused on tackling COVID-19, it is inevitable that not everyone in need of healthcare can be looked after with the same priority. Being able to help take some of the pressure off the overstretched medical system, and being able to use my expertise to help alleviate the suffering of another to the best of my ability, is what inspires me to go to work everyday."

Amy Phinn-Richter, Charge Nurse, Kaiser Permanente California

Bachelor of Nursing

"I’m a charge nurse across three busy clinics in California. I have been doing frontline screening for COVID-19 for a month. I have taken to living in our caravan so I don’t accidentally make my son or husband sick. It’s been three weeks since I went into my home."

Alumna Claire Etheridge

Dr Claire Etheridge, Specialist General Practitioner in private practice and CMO at a private hospital in Bowral

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

"This pandemic has involved re-learning how to provide quality patient focused care when the rules are changing daily and the stakes are incredibly high both personally and professionally. Every single patient has either lost their job, their business is in peril, or their family members are locked away in a nursing home unable to be visited. The stress and uncertainty is taking an enormous toll even without large numbers of infected individuals. We're all in this together into the unknown."

Alumna Christolyn Raj

Dr Christolyn Raj, Ophthalmologist, public and private hospitals, Melbourne, Victoria

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

"The COVID-19 crises has changed they way many ophthalmologists practice, myself included. We still need to be able to provide unique services to our patients but are wary of not exposing them to the potential infection. Every diligence is taken with social distancing measures in clinic, working in teams to ensure a 'back up' team is available but given that my work involves very close contact, it is still a risk every day and something that PPE (personal protective equipment) will not take away."

Alumna Jo Muirhead

Jo Muirhead, Founder and Principal Consultant at Purple Co, an organisation helping people return to work

Bachelor of Health Science (Rehabilliation Counselling)

"Now is not the time for people to disengage with any treatment, services or therapy. Now is the time for all health professionals to take a leadership role in how we present a calm, easy to access, easy to implement service for people who were feeling incredibly vulnerable before COVID-19."


Alumnus James Brown

Dr James Brown, O&G registrar at Western Sydney Local Health District

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (Honours) and Master of Public Health

"It’s a pretty basic sense of duty that inspires me. The duty isn’t just to patients, but to colleagues. You are hyper-aware that if you don’t maximise your efforts, someone else will need to pick up the slack. Seeing others do the same for you makes this easy."

Robert Hall

Dr Robert Hall, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control

Bachelor Science (Med), Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Master of Public Health

"I have worked as a public health physician for most of my career, much of it in communicable disease control. I pretty much retired two years ago, but was asked to return to the Department of Health to work in the response to COVID-19 two weeks ago. I am part of a large team that is informing patients, organising for their medical follow up, organising their isolation, and contact tracing."

Vidya Perera

Vidya Perera, Head of Cardiovascular Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacometrics, Bristol-Myers Squibb

PhD (Clinical Pharmacology and and Pharmacy)

"Given the important role of pharmaceutical industry to identify and screen new pharmaceutical candidates to target disease, we have been able to use these tools to collaborate and share knowledge with several research organisations including the Gates Foundation and academic/clinical sites in the fight against COVID-19. I've been involved with efforts to help in repurposing drugs, both past and present for this cause."

Alumna Selina Metternick Jones

Selina Metternick Jones, Manager, Research Support and Development Unit, Fiona Stanley Hospital 

Master of Bioethics 

"As a novel virus with no known treatment, the only way to access experimental drug treatments is through clinical trials. This means research has taken centre stage in the fight against COVID. Within the past few weeks clinicians have approached us with dozens of potential trials to provide new treatment regimes or medications to those who are sick."

Alumna Emma Sykes

Emma Sykes, Clinical Pharmacist, Alice Springs Hospital

Bachelor of Pharmacy 

"It is really reassuring to see how creative and flexible everyone has become as we prepare for the worst and hope for the best in Central Australia. It has been especially challenging to get our remote Indigenous patients back into their closed communities and homes with the least risk possible and has required significant collaboration with both clinical and admin staff, but everyone is being incredibly resourceful to overcome these issues."

Alumnus Mohit Tolani

Mohit Tolani, Dentist, Dapto

Doctor of Dental Medicine

"Whilst the nation battles one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century, I am grateful that I am able to offer my services during this time within a professional and volunteering capacity. As a dentist practising in a regional area, I am very thankful for the community support we have received and our still open to provide treatment on the frontline during this cataclysmic period.

"Each day is a new story with several changes being proposed in order to minimise the spread. With uncertainty tainting our current times and hazy future, I am proud of my dental fraternity providing emergency services on the frontline. Tough times don’t define people, they rather refine people – as a team, community and a nation – we will come out of this bigger and better."

Alumna Sarah Tolerton

Dr Sarah Tolerton, Specialist Plastic Surgeon (Visiting Medical Officer), NSW Health 

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Master of Surgery (Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery)

"The majority of my work is cancer and trauma surgery, both of which evidently continue to present and require management during COVID-19. The pandemic has affected most aspects of our practice in the hospital setting. From presentation and assessment of patients in emergency, to transfer and conduct in the operating theatre, and post-operative care and follow-up in the outpatient department.

"Australia's emergency response to COVID-19 should be commended and seems to be working, but much uncertainty remains and return to 'normal' practice (and life) as we know it still feels far on the horizon."

Hudson Birden

Dr Hudson Birden, Chair, Human Research Ethics Committee Vice Chair, Research Development Committee Townsville Hospital and Health Service, Institute of Health Research and Innovation

PhD Medicine

"We're now fast tracking research applications for COVID-19 studies and getting lots of them."

Carol East

Carol East, retired pharmacist

Bachelor of Pharmacy 

"I don't have any experiences with COVID-19, but I live in country NSW and would be only too happy to help if necessary. 

I'm inspired by the dedication of medical people who expose themselves to huge risk."

Alumna Andrea Marshall

Andrea Marshall, Professor of Acute and Complex Care Nursing, Griffith University and Gold Coast Health 

Bachelor of Nursing, Master of Nursing (Research), Doctor of Philosophy

"As a critical care nurse with more than 30 years' intensive care experience as a clinician, academic and researcher, I felt compelled to ready myself so that I am able to assist with clinical work during what will undoubtedly be a trying year. So I have begun doing supernumerary shifts in the ICU, being supported by some fantastic colleagues."

Alumna Sami Isaac

Sami Isaac, Pharmacist, Chemistworks Wetherill Park 

Bachelor of Pharmacy and current PhD candidate

"Working together with my siblings has been the best part of being a pharmacist at Sydney’s only 24/7 pharmacy during an unprecedented time of fear during the COVID-19 outbreak. I work with my sister Natalie who is the head pharmacist, my other sister Maria a part time dispensary technician, and my youngest brother who works as a pharmacy assistant. Each of my siblings are University of Sydney alumni or current students."


Alumna Frances Ershad

Frances Ershad, Dentist, ABC Dental 

Doctor of Dental Medicine 

"We need to be there for people in need. When someone has a toothache, the pain can be excruciating. Healthcare professionals need to be able to care for the people who need us most, and put our patients before our own self interests."

Alumna Aileen Manahan

Aileen Manahan, Nurse Manager, Mental Health Facility

Bachelor of Nursing 

"I believe that all of us on the frontline should really look after one another. As a leader, I believe in compassionate leadership which is very important on a daily basis, most especially during this difficult time."

Alumnus Edward Lun

Edward Lun, Clinical Dietician, NSW Health 

Master of Nutrition and Dietetics 

"My experience so far has been one of resilience; having come off a horror bushfire season and with another flu season on the horizon, the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely added to the strain of the workload, yet we are coming together as a team to support each other both professionally and emotionally. There is a quiet confidence that if each and everyone of us plays our part, from providing the best care to our patients, to simple acts like washing hands properly and physically distancing appropriately, we can beat this pandemic together."


Alumna Elizabeth Denny-Wilson

Elizabeth Denney-Wilson, Conjoint Professor of Nursing, Sydney Local Health District and the University of Sydney

Bachelor of Nursing, Master of Public Health, Doctor of Philosphy 

"I have joined a 'tiger team' in the Sydney LHD that provides clinical and non-clinical teams with up to date information, resources and support. The tiger teams ensure that all hospital staff have a single point of 'truth' in terms of latest data, policies and procedures particularly in terms of use of PPE and keeping themselves, patients and each other safe. The leadership in Sydney LHD is inspiring and I am delighted to be working with such a great team."

Alumna Stephanie Watson

Dr Stephanie Watson, Professor, Save Sight Institute, The University of Sydney 

Bachelor of Science (Medical Science), Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery 

"As an eye doctor I am currently caring for patients with urgent eye conditions, such as infections and raised eye pressure. If these conditions remain untreated patients can lose their vision. Patients with COVID can also suffer with conjunctivitis. The first doctor in China to describe COVID was an eye doctor and he, like a handful of eye doctors around the world died from COVID. This is because eye doctors are relatively close to a patient when they examine their eyes."

Alumnus Lorin Monkc

Dr Lorin Monkc, Rural General Practitioner, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

"As rural general practitioner and part of RACGP rural council the rural practitioner network is responding appropriately by preparing for possibility of patients with infectious diseases this winter including possibility of coronavirus infections.

"Communication between the GP and emergency medicine staff and public health physicians is of paramount importance, and this is occurring readily in this area of rural Australia."

Alumna Silva Minassian

Silva Minassian, Proprietor, Destro's Pharmacy, Drummoyne NSW 

Bachelor of Pharmacy 

"It has been incredibly stressful to source medicines and hygiene products with the unprecedented demand as a result of COVID-19. We have been working 15-18 hour days to service the community and to source products and safety equipment.

"The community needs us and we are proud to assist them, every day of the week."

Alumna Natalie Heon-Wade

Natalie Heon-Wade, Clinical Nurse Leader, Vancouver, Canada 

Master of Midwifery 

"As a frontline leader in one of Canada's largest women’s hospitals, I am inspired by my fellow nurses and colleagues, who encourage gratitude, and who find ways to continue giving meaning to our every days. When hospital work is mentally and physically exhausting, and social distancing is emotionally exhausting, these colleagues are there to remind me of the simple joys in life that give great meaning."

Alumnus Nicholas Avramidis

Dr Nicholas Avramidis, General Practitioner, Kensington, NSW

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

"It feels like living in a bad movie. An unbelievable plot, the whole world affected so suddenly, and so many unknowns. I feel as if I am living in an Alice in Wonderland existence. I am 73 years of age, and go to work (war), in the morning, then go home to socially distance, but always available should my patients ring. I divert all calls to my mobile, and have my records with me at home on my work lap top computer. I have not seen my children and grand daughter for weeks, but keep in contact with modern technology."

Alumnus Ian Cameron

Dr Ian Cameron, Aged Care Specialist, South East Sydney

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery 

"I spend 6 or 7 days a week dealing with the multiple major medical problems of hundreds of residents of 15 aged care facilities in the south east of Sydney. Over the last four months, there has been enormous anxiety among residents, families, and nursing staff regarding COVID-19. Everyone is aware that they are the people most at risk."

Alumni Julianne Hygon

Julianne Hygon, Registered Nurse, Emergency Department, University of Utah, USA

Master of Nursing 

"My experience has required continuous adaptation to a very dynamic environment. As new information comes out we try to adjust our practices to best serve our patients.

"I am inspired by my colleagues who are working countless hours and are still doing research on their time off to keep up to date with the latest information and data emerging. I am also inspired by my neighbours, family and friends who have checked up on me and have been very encouraging."

Alumnus Phillip Emder

Dr Phillip Emder, VMO, Sydney Children's Hospital, Staff Specialist, Bankstown Hospital, Paediatric Practice Bankstown 

Bachelor of Science (Medical Science), Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

"Medicine is a vocation and a calling as well as a living – sometimes this is not always understood. Hence we need to be available to treat sick people even if this involves some risk to ourselves. Looking at the heroics of ICU staff in New York and Italy, and the terrible loss of life is sobering and makes us all grateful that so far we are avoiding these disasters. We are indeed fortunate."

Alumna Tani Paxton

Tani Paxton, Private Practice Midwife 

Master of International Public Health

"I'm working with women to prepare for birth and bringing a new baby into an Australia that is looking very different at the moment. I’m inspired by the frontline midwives across the world! And knowing that life goes on - when a baby is born, the world stands still!"

Alumna Hala Musa

Hala Musa, Pharmacy Intern, Chris O'Brien Lifehouse

Master of Pharmacy 

"I am continually inspired by the patients I encounter each day. They are one of the major sources of inspiration and I feel so grateful that I have the opportunity to be apart of a team of health care professionals that are working towards a single aim of ensuring patient care is at the centre of everything we do."

Alumna Tracey Hanchard

Tracey Hanchard, Sonographer, Dubbo Base Hospital

Medical Ultrasound, Masters Medical Education, Doctor of Philosophy

"There are changing protocols almost daily. We're preparing for and expecting the worst. During this time I'm most inspired by the resilience and bravery of all health workers."

Alumna Ashwini Chand

Ashwini Chand, Deputy Dietician, Westmead Hospital 

Master of Public Health 

"We are supporting ICU patients with enteral tube feeding ensuring patients meet their nutritional requirements with all the other medical challenges of this severe respiratory disease that we have not seen before."

Alumnus John Fone

Dr John Fone, General Practitioner, Port Macquarie Hospital

Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery 

"There have been confusing and difficult logistical problems but both GPs and the hospital have worked diligently to continue practising. I hope that people will reassess their priorities now and in the future. I'm inspired by the concerted efforts of the scientific community to find treatments and vaccines."

Alumnus Dong Fang Zhao

Dr Dong Fang Zhao, Neurology Resident Physician, Wayne State University, Detroit, USA

Doctor of Medicine

"I'm working in one of the heaviest impacted hospitals in the US on the inpatient medicine floors and ICU services. I'm inspired by frontline workers in countries like China who have overcome the crisis."

Alumna Marie Coughlan

Marie Coughlan, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Drug and Alcohol Consultation Liaison, Prince of Wales Hospital

Bachelor of Nursing, Master of Public Health, Master of Nursing (Nurse Practitioner)

"I am in awe of the amazingly calm and skilled work of the ED and ward staff with whom I have the privilege to work and am so glad to be able to work in our really skilled, really strong CL team. We get by with lots of good humour, tears at times, kindness to each other, absolute professionalism, great support from our world class D&A staff specialists and a lot of laughter."

Alumnus Adrian Lo

Dr Adrian Lo, General Practitioner, Penshurst

Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy), Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery 

"I work in General Practice in a medium sized medical centre and also have my own business servicing nursing homes. In the surgery I am involved in screening for potential COVID-19 cases. I'm also heavily involved in making sure my regular patients are up to date with their preventative healthcare items and are staying up to date with NSW Health guidelines."

"In the nursing homes I am trying to keep my patients as protected as possible - through early flu vaccination this season but also working with management on appropriate response and application of directives set by NSW Health."

We are remaining open for our clients despite the current situation and have increased our telehealth capacity to maintain patient continuity. We have split into 2 shifts to minimise restriction of our service to allow our clients to be looked after.
Amanda Turner, Physiotherapist, Northern Sports Physiotherapy
At a time when all resources are focused on tackling COVID-19, it is inevitable that not everyone in need of healthcare can be looked after with the same priority. Being able to help take some of the pressure off the overstretched medical system, and being able to use my expertise to help alleviate the suffering of another to the best of my ability, is what inspires me to go to work everyday.
Rachel SP Chang, Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Herbalist
Some of us like myself have continued working to provide emergency services. This has been difficult because while service availability is reduced, demand for public oral health services remains overwhelming.
Vincenzo Guerrera, Dental Officer, Liverpool Hospital Community Oral Health Clinic
Its been a whirlwind of an experience. I've learnt what the true meaning of patience is and this has also helped me gain an understanding of how tough situations can be handled in the community. Together, we can and we will get through this.
Noura Safi, Pharmacist, Campsie