Gail O’Brien AO
(Bamford, 1972)

Alumnae Award: Social Welfare and Impact

Gail O’Brien’s Order of Australia was awarded in 2018 for her ‘distinguished service to community health as an advocate for and supporter of cancer sufferers and their families through comprehensive research and treatment programs’.

Gail is Patient Advocate and Board Director at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, a world-class, fully integrated and comprehensive cancer care hospital co-located with Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney and Sydney University.

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is the legacy of her late husband Professor Chris O’Brien AO. Gail was integral is realising his dream.

Gail O’Brien (Bamford) attended MLC School in the 1970s with her two sisters, Adele and Adrienne. Gail has worked as a health professional for 40 years as a physiotherapist, in health administration and development.

Gail’s husband, Chris O’Brien, an exceptional and celebrated cancer surgeon died in June 2009. After her husband’s death, and the tragedy that followed two years later with the sudden death of her eldest son, Gail found the strength to carry on and has worked tirelessly to enhance the care given to patients and their families; to provide a better future for others.

The AO recognises Gail’s service and dedication to those whose lives are touched by cancer and is a testament to her incredible generosity and fortitude.

Reflections

What would you say are your three proudest achievements?

  1. Motherhood – the privilege of influencing the development of my children to become accomplished, kind, resilient and loving young adults who contribute positively to society.
  2. Seeing the sign ‘CHRIS O’BRIEN LIFEHOUSE’ for the first time on the building, towards completion of construction of the hospital. My late husband’s name was emblematic of certain qualities and heralded a new era in the way cancer would be treated and patients cared for. The hard road to get to this point which was tinged with blood sweat and tears, felt worth it!
  3. Hospital Accreditation Awards Ceremony September 2019 – a most auspicious occasion where the CEO of the Australian Council of Healthcare Standards presented in person an award to the hospital for excellence in Healthcare standards. She acknowledged that the vision of Prof Chris O’Brien AO had been achieved and there were no health care recommendations to be addressed. An unprecedented achievement for a hospital! As a team of health care workers, we were proud to be part of this extraordinary success. It was an awe-inspiring moment.

How did an MLC School education play a role in your life?

It is hard to pinpoint any exact moment. Certainly, the well-rounded education I received has been a factor. Miss Sharp was unyielding in her precision for English grammar which has stayed with me always! MLC School was strongly disciplinarian which was character building! There was a solidarity amongst the students and friendships have been enduring.

For some reason the school motto ‘Ut filiae lucis ambulate’ has always stayed with me – and seems to be increasingly absorbed and meaningful with the passage of time, ‘Walk as daughters of the light’. I think this sums up what we really have to do in life. How can we go wrong if we follow this simple instruction!