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Makers and shapers in allied health

14 October 2020
Celebrating our allied health alumni and staff

14 October marks the day we celebrate allied health professionals making a difference to client care and to the health and wellbeing of populations around the world.

Allied Health Professionals Day (AHP Day) is a worldwide initiative that started in the United Kingdom in 2018 to celebrate who allied professionals are, what they do and why they are valuable. It is a social movement to recognise the contribution of allied health professionals to client care and population health and wellbeing. 

The Faculty of Medicine and Health is especially proud to celebrate the hard work of our staff, alumni, industry partners and current students making and shaping allied health here in Australia and around the world.

Meet some of our allied health makers and shapers

Associate Professor Sarah Dennis

Associate Professor in Allied Health, Sydney School of Health Sciences and South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD)

Associate Professor Dennis studied physiotherapy and then epidemiology in the UK and considers herself lucky to have been exposed to world leaders in each field early on in her studies. She now works at the University teaching physiotherapy students and supervising PhD students and at SWSLHD working with clinicians to develop their research skills, as well as undertaking her own research which focuses on access to allied health and models of care in allied health for people with long term conditions.

"Allied health has the potential to make such a difference to the lives of people with long terms conditions or disability and across all ages."

Michael Dickson #AHPsDay

Michael Dickson

Director and Founding Member of Health Consulting Collaborative and Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise and Sport Science) alumnus

After completing his exercise and sport science degree at Sydney, Michael worked as a professional ski coach and trainer for the Australian Paralympic Committee before becoming a management consultant in health and social care at PwC and then moving on to form the Health Consulting Collaborative. In Michael’s current role as a director and management consultant, he works with clients across the health and social care to help improve the quality and efficiency of services and helps enable the small steps that build into real transformational change. 

"I am passionate about health and well-being - the health of my family, my friends and my own. Working in the health and social care systems has real, tangible benefits to people – it means something."

Professor Jim Elliot PT, PhD, FAPTA

Conjoint Professor of Allied Health at Sydney School of Health Sciences, The Kolling Institute and Northern Sydney Local Health District (NSLHD) and Principal Investigator of Neuromuscular Imaging Research Laboratory

On top of teaching and supervising PhD students at the University of Sydney, Kolling  Institute and NSLHD, Professor Elliot leads a collaborative research team across emergency medicine, biomedical engineering and magnetic resonance physics to identify and quantify potential biomarkers (e.g. lower connectivity in emotion regulation and executive control neural networks, altered spinal cord anatomy and skeletal muscle composition) of poor functional recovery. He has published over 125 papers in his field.

Working in allied health is important to Jim because he feels it permits him the opportunity to focus on and revel in the outcomes of collaboration and bear witness to the potential of human beings. 

One of the most memorable moments of his career was when he heard a patient say, “the surgeon saved my life, but you (to a speech pathologist) make it worth living.”

Weh Yeoh

Social Enterprise Founder and Leader, Senior Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Sydney and Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy) alumnus

Weh Yeoh’s career has been anything but boring. He has held roles with NSW Health, Handicap International, Australian Red Cross and has helped found four companies in the private and non-profit sectors (Umbo, OIC Cambodia, Happy Kids Clinic and WhyDev). He has worked in Australia, China and Cambodia in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors and is a passionate volunteer. Working in allied health is important to Weh because it looks at the whole person and their wellbeing and works towards the goals they set.

“I’m most interested in helping people with the greatest barriers to accessing allied health and readdressing power imbalances. Fundamentally, this is at the core of every project, non-profit, social enterprise that I’ve been involved in founding. I don’t just want to help in a way that addresses symptoms, I want to get to the root cause of the problem at a systemic level and disrupt the status quo.”

You can watch Weh Yeoh's inspiring Tedx talk on 'Why international charities need to make themselves redundant' here.

Professor Steven Kamper #AHPsDay

Professor Steve Kamper

Professor of Allied Health at  School of Health Sciences and Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District (NBMLHD)

Professor Kamper has a conjoint appointment at the University and Nepean Blue Mountains LHD. In this role he supports and facilitates research activity among allied health clinicians across the health district. He originally studied physical geography and worked as an environmental scientist before returning to university to study physiotherapy. 

He loves working in allied health because of the breadth of services, activities and client groups that come together.  

“Allied health workers can be helping mums feed their new babies, supporting people through mental health crises, diagnosing serious conditions, increasing fitness in older people, teaching school-kids about healthy eating, pushing athletes to their best, sorting out living arrangements, connecting people with community services, getting people moving after surgery and on and on and on! There are just so many places where allied health workers are making a difference to lives.”

Tara Lal

Senior Firefighter, Author, PhD candidate and Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy) alumna

Tara Lal completed her degree in physiotherapy over twenty years ago, and after working for almost five years as a physio, she became a firefighter with Fire and Rescue NSW and split her time between both careers. More recently, she has moved out of physio practice and is now completing her PhD in mental health while still working as a senior firefighter, author, speaker and mental health first aid instructor.  

Tara’s career path hasn’t followed the usual trajectory one would expect after studying a physiotherapy degree, but she credits her foundational knowledge in allied health for giving her the grounding to take a more holistic and diverse approach to health and wellbeing.

Twenty years after completing her degree, she still employs the skills and knowledge in many different aspects of her life, professionally and personally.

“The most meaningful aspect of my job is and always has been to make a difference to people’s lives. Physiotherapy enabled me to do this, as has being a firefighter, researcher and an author. It is only now that I am able to join all the dots of my knowledge and experience both academically, professionally and personally to lead me to the meaning and purpose I now have through all the vast array of roles that I currently fulfill.”

Professor Vicki Flood AHPsDay

Professor Vicki Flood

Conjoint Professor of Allied Health at Sydney School of Health Sciences and Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD)

Professor Vicki Flood studied nutrition and dietetics, following on from an undergraduate science degree. This led to her practice as a dietitian. She later studied a Master of Public Health and then a PhD, allowing her to build on her interest in the research side of allied health. 

Working in allied health is important to Vicki because she enjoys working to support better health for people across the lifespan. She loves seeing the next generation of allied health professionals developing, building on the experience of others and coming up with new ways of working.

"Allied health professionals play a critical role in supporting better health for people, across the lifespan. We work in prevention, treatment, public health, policy, education and research. We take a holistic approach to our work, and really think about what will be important for an individual/community/population, with an eye to social determinants of health."

Matthew Jennings

Director Allied Health, Liverpool Hospital, Director Physiotherapy South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) and Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy) alumni

Matthew Jennings wasn't really sure what path he wanted to take before he decided to pursue a career in allied health - he just knew he had a desire to  experience everything the world has to offer and that he was driven by the need to make a real difference and address inequity.

After completing a degree in physiotherapy he went on to work in hospitals and clinics around Australia and the UK for almost 17 years before returning to Sydney and to work as a conjoint senior lecturer at various universities. He has since gone on to lead two different musculoskeletal networks all while working in his current roles as Director Allied Health, Liverpool Hospital and Director Physiotherapy, SWSLHD.

The most memorable moments in Matthew's career have been the individual patient successes, teaching students and the people he has worked with across several fantastic teams.

"I have always been driven by the need to make a real difference and address inequity. Working in South Western Sydney I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to care for and support some of the most amazing people in our community – people from the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and challenging backgrounds, the culturally and linguistically diverse. At Liverpool, I also have the chance to work alongside some of the greatest minds and most passionate staff that you can find. Throughout my career I have remained connected to the frontline, to staff, patients and their carers and families, and nothing compares to seeing the difference that we make to those needing care and support, often at their most vulnerable times or even at end-of-life."