Hopkins leadership change and vision for the future
There are days when you have to make decisions that you never thought you would have to make. These decisions challenge you in every way - they are usually decisions that have both a positive and a negative element. They require a sad sacrifice you know you have to make to avoid something else you will regret. In my case, I have made the incredibly difficult decision to step out of my role as Executive Director of the Hopkins Centre. Many of you know that my mother has Parkinson’s dementia. She requires a lot of care during these final stages and I have made the decision to spend as much time with her as I can. To do that I need to rationalise my workload.
I can’t emphasise enough how difficult this decision has been. I am passionate about the Hopkins Centre and what it stands for. It is based on some of the most important principles for people with disabilities, such as inclusion and self-direction. It brings to life some of the most essential values that drive rehabilitation. It places emphasis on the wealth of knowledge that sits within clinical practice and in the community sector. This knowledge is often overlooked in favour of more traditional evidence generated by academic researchers. There is no doubt that the Hopkins Centre has demonstrated what can be gained when academics, clinicians/practitioners and consumers work together in meaningful ways to solve real problems. Most importantly, the Hopkins Centre has demonstrated that our way of working can speed up the translation process by addressing questions that actually matter to our stakeholders and by working together to embed solutions into systems so they can be sustained in the long-term.
Thankfully, there is still a role for me within the Hopkins Centre. I don’t think I could ever stop being a Hopkins Centre devotee, so I am excited to take on the new role of Chair (Innovation and Sustainability). It sounds a bit daunting, but I will be leading a group of very clever and influential people who will form the Advisory Board for the centre. In partnership with the new (and old) Executive Team members, we hope to achieve a strong future for the Hopkins Centre and a firm place for our values and approach within broader and bigger opportunities.
At this juncture, I have had time to reflect on our journey. During this time, my admiration for Professor Tim Geraghty, Deputy Director of THC, has been boundless. He saw the Hopkins Centre vision so clearly back in late 2012 when we first started sharing ideas over coffee about how we could make it happen. I couldn’t have picked a better person to work with to embark on this initiative. I sincerely thank Tim for his foresight, openness, willingness, creativity, and his faith in the value of rehabilitation that places people first.
Picking good people to work with seems to be one of my greatest skills! Tim and I waited many months for Professor Michele Foster to take up our first joint Professor position of Research Director. That was definitely one of our best decisions because Michele really made things happen. I know you will share my excitement that as of 1st July, Michele will be acting Executive Director of the Hopkins Centre. I have known Michele for over 25 years now - we worked together in the demonstration project that became ABIOS (the Acquired Brain Injury Outreach Service) and later in the first iteration of the MAIC-funded CONROD (The Centre of National research on Disability and Rehabilitation, now named RECOVER). Michele and I have always shared the same goal of quality outcomes for people with disability so the Hopkins Centre is in very good hands.
Now is time to pause, refresh and ensure we are still operating according to our values and in ways that achieve results. We are looking forward to a new-look Hopkins Centre with a bold new website and a revised way of working that will help us to be more impactful. Since our establishment, the world has sent us some significant challenges like COVID-19 and some major unpredictable changes in our ecosystem, such as NIISQ and the NDIS. We have seen a massive increase in the political and public commitment to complex concepts such as translation, consumer engagement, codesign and inclusion. These are concepts we were already exploring before they became popular. The last few years have brought so many opportunities to influence the future and so many new paths to follow. The growth has been largely positive, but no doubt there are times when it has felt like a speeding train! We have managed to stay on track and safely reach many of our destinations.
Staying on track has been largely due to the enormous effort of Sally Stewart, our business development manager. Sally has the extraordinary skill of being able to translate a good idea into something tangible. She also has the even more extraordinary skill of being able to tell you when you are being completely unrealistic! More importantly, she helps ideas to become more realistic.
Earlier this year Professor Heidi Zeeman (one of our foundation professors) was successful in winning a prestigious NHMRC Ideas grant. These grants are so competitive and it is a testament to the quality of her work that she was successful. However, her attention has been focused on the leadership of this major project, creating a void in the centre. Heidi remains an important part of the Hopkins Centre, and we thank her for her innovative energy. I have worked with Heidi for most of my career and I look forward to that continuing.
We are pleased to announce that Professor Tamara Ownsworth will be joining our leadership team. During the next year while Michele acts as Executive Director, Tamara will be acting Research Director. Tamara needs no introduction to those who work in brain injury. She has an incredibly strong track record in this area and is an accomplished research leader. You will find an introduction to Tamara later in this edition of the Wrap. A/Prof David Trembath will continue to assist the Hopkins Centre in his role as Deputy Research Director. David has done an amazing job over the last few years building capacity in the area of children with disability. This work may be invisible to many of you because it is largely at the Gold Coast and involves a different group of members.
I am incredibly grateful to our partners who have enabled the Hopkins centre to operate in this way. First, I would like to acknowledge the commitment of our primary partner, the
Motor Accident Insurance Commission, which has funded our work over many years. I hope this relationship continues well into the future because no matter what happens, we will always need high quality personalised rehabilitation based on values such as dignity and consumer engagement. We are so privileged in Queensland that MAIC values our research and the place of consumer and practitioner knowledge in the system.
Our partner organisations have been essential to the Hopkins Centre success. My personal relationship with some of these organisations dates back to the 1980s and 1990s (e.g., MAIC, Synapse, SLA, MetroSouth Health, HCQ) so I’m very proud to still have such positive relationships. Other partners are more recent, but have been equally essential to our vision and capability (e.g., Microsoft Australia, RACQ and Gold Coast HHS as well as other developing partnerships). We look forward to renewing all our partnerships and finding new productive ways to work together in future. Most importantly, I want to thank the Hopkins family for having faith in us and allowing us to use the family name. We all know the importance of Paul’s legacy and I am proud that we can be a small part of that legacy.
There have been so many exciting initiatives in the Hopkins Centre, not the least of which is the Ambassadors Council. I would be remiss not to mention the powerful influence of our patron Kevin Cocks AM and our panel of talented Ambassadors. The ambassadors have driven important initiatives such as The Dignity Project, but have also begun a raft of influential projects with new partner organisations. These projects, ranging from photography, singing and ballet to self-employment, architectural design and ethics, have changed the way things happen for people with disabilities. Our Ambassadorial team has grown substantially since 2016. COVID-19 prevented us from meeting in person, but their research initiatives have doubled. The Ambassadors and our citizen-led science set us apart from other research centres, but they also reflect the value we place on the end-users of our work.
Finally, I would like to thank the amazing research support team (Macarla, Mel, Bek, Kristy, Jo, Mike, Kelsey), the Research Assistants and Fellows and all the academics who have worked with The Hopkins Centre. The work you do is driven by passion and integrity. Importantly, I need to acknowledge our clinician-researchers who have worked on projects, seed grants and fellowships. Many of you give so much time to the centre through your roles on management committee, your leadership of streams and teams, presenting to advisory board, speaking on panels, reviewing grants or representing the Centre at important events. The centre would be nothing without you and your commitment to the vision of bold ideas and better solutions that can improve the lives of the people you work with every day.
Thank you all for the support you’ve given me during this time, and indeed over the last 30 years for some of you. An inclusive future based on fairness and social justice and easy access to high quality dignified assistance is something we should all be seeking and I know the Hopkins Centre will continue to play a key role in this journey.
Professor Elizabeth Kendall
Executive Director, The Hopkins Centre