Ms Skinner was admitted to the degree of Doctor of Health Sciences (honoris causa) during a ceremony held in the University’s Great Hall on Wednesday 20 April, presided over by the Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson.
Ms Hutchinson said the award recognised Ms Skinner’s extraordinary leadership and vision for the health sector.
“Throughout her career Ms Skinner prioritised patients, putting them at the centre of all decisions regarding health care,” Ms Hutchinson said.
“She has earned wide respect for her commitment to health and to medical research, particularly her support for innovative treatments. She has also been a champion of social policy programs, and has long recognised universities as essential partners in terms of research and educating the future health workforce. We are delighted to welcome Ms Skinner to our University of Sydney community, and to formally recognise her significant contributions to Australia’s health sector.”
A member of the NSW parliament for 23 years and Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party from 2007 to 2014, Ms Skinner was shadow minister for Health between 1995 to 2003 and 2005 to 2011. During her time in parliament, she also held the shadow portfolios of Education and Training, Youth Affairs and Arts. She also served as New South Wales Minister for Health for six years and Minister for Medical Research for five years.
In her role as NSW Health Minister, Ms Skinner was responsible for the smooth running of the hospital system and oversaw 200 public hospitals. She also worked to fill gaps, providing greater access to pain management and palliative care and incentives to increase organ donation. Under her leadership, NSW also became a leader in HIV prevention and management.
Ms Skinner established the Office of Health and Medical Research to foster investment in research, including the establishment of the Medical Devices Fund. Reform of NSW Health, and the enhancement of eHealth initiatives, led to improved and new treatments and methods of delivering healthcare. These technological advancements, together with Ms Skinner’s focus on establishing Public Health units in local health districts, proved critical in the state’s response to COVID-19.
A consistent champion of preventive health and integrated and better healthcare for people with chronic and complex conditions, Ms Skinner’s investment in the NSW Integrated Care Strategy aimed to provide seamless, effective, and holistic care for patients.
Ms Skinner also helped to increase the number of healthcare workers with the addition of 4,000 nurses and 900 doctors as well as several hundred allied health professionals. She also had oversight of nearly $10 billion invested in building new and upgraded hospitals. This record in health spending in addition to an increase in health care workers delivered tens of thousands more emergency department treatments, and shorter waiting lists for elective surgeries.
Throughout her time in parliament, Ms Skinner also recognised the critical role of universities and research to improving healthcare and health systems and promoted the potential of clinician-scientists to transform healthcare as we now know it. She also acknowledged the essential role of our students in health, to magnify the health workforce by expanding the number of treatments delivered, bringing fresh insights and innovations to old clinical problems, as well as providing the future workforce.