Horvath, Diana

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Professor Diana Horvath was the first Community Physician at Mt Druitt Centre and established the Community Nursing Program in all schools; she was the first to work as administrator of a Clinical Division within King George V Hospital, later rising to General Superintendent, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital; the first female Chairperson of the NHMRC; and Chief Executive of the Sydney South Western Area Health Service. She is considered a leader in health care management and research.

After graduation, Diana took up an appointment as Medical Officer at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital for one year, after which she travelled to Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, at first, to work as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Medicine, then as Physician-in-Charge. This latter role involved her in the Community Medicine’s primary care facility and the Physician’s Assistant Program. On returning to Australia, she became the first Community Physician at Mount Druitt Centre in the early days of the Western Metropolitan Health Region. Diana established community nurses at all schools and a back-up service at the Mount Druitt shopping centre which became the pattern for delivery of Community Health Services in Western Sydney. This led to her becoming Principal Adviser in Community Services in the Health Commission of New South Wales. In this role, she was responsible for directing the NSW Community Health Program, including state-federal negotiations on funding with the Federal Department of Health and National Hospitals and the Health Services Commission. As a member of the Division of Personal Health Services under Commissioner Barclay, she spent much time helping establish the program in the new Regions.

In 1977, she was seconded to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital as Assistant Director of Medical Services. This position was the first of its kind as she was both the Administrator of a Clinical Division (Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology–otherwise King George V Hospital), with management and budgetary responsibility.

Diana left the Public Service in 1979 and became a public hospital employee. In this role, she established the Board of Directors’ Standing Committee on Allocation of Clinical Resources. For nearly 10 years, this Committee of Divisional Heads, Senior Clinicians and the Director of Nursing was the major source of advice on matters, e.g. the Hospital Rationalisation Program, expansion and reduction of services, and all planning activities etc.

Two years later, a new position was created when the Director of Medical Services at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital assumed a part-time role in the Department of Health. This new role saw Diana taking day-to-day management and budgetary responsibility for the Medical Services of the hospital. Her work at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital culminated with becoming General Superintendent in 1987, making her responsible for the management of the total hospital complex.

In 1989 she decided to leave the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital to take up an appointment as Area Director of the Eastern Sydney Area Health Service. According to Diana, she had lobbied and planned to get Area Health Services legislated for in NSW. Her desire was to see hospitals become part of a conglomerate of health care that incorporated several institutions, including the community sector. The intent of this was to achieve both economies of scale and consistency of care in the clinical services – both of which produced good outcomes for the individual hospitals. She was well positioned to take up this challenging role as she had intimate and substantial knowledge of the workings of the public health sector already. Since her appointment with Eastern Sydney Area Health Service, she has risen to CEO of Sydney South Western Area Health Service.

Diana was made an Officer in the Order of Australia in 1993 and was awarded the Sax Medal by the Australian Hospital Association, the highest honour periodically awarded by the AHA for innovation in health care management and research, thus achieving the pinnacle of her profession.[1] She has also been awarded the Arthur Anderson/Dr Ed Crosby International Hospital Federation Award for managerial innovation. More recently, she was awarded a Federation Medal by the Australian government and the Princess Award by the government of Thailand. She was the first female Chairman of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Commissioner for the Health Insurance Commission, a Member of the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council and President of the Australian Hospital Association, a member of Trade Policy Advisory Council of Australia, a Board Member of Ascham School Ltd and a member of the governing Board of Macquarie University among many others. Diana is currently a Board Member of a number of medical research institutes.

Reflecting back over the years, Diana focuses on a few achievements that have given her great satisfaction: Firstly, her work developing the NHMRC into a truly national policy advisory construct facilitated linkages between ‘coalface’ health practitioners and government bureaucracies; secondly, the decade during which Clinical Streams of Care across CSAHS enabled “top class clinicians, academics and managers” to work together in a partnership “characterised by mutual trust and respect”; and lastly, the Resource Transition Program, a population-needs-based health services plan, which spawned area-wide capital redevelopment and initiated some dramatic changes to the “hospital landscape in CSAHS”.[1]

In 2005 Diana was made Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Sydney.

In February 2006 Diana Horvath was appointed as Chief Executive of the newly established Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.

Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Horvath, Diana. Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive, University of Sydney.

An alternate version appears in: Mellor, L. 150 Years, 150 Firsts: The People of the Faculty of Medicine (2006) Sydney, Sydney University Press.