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Introducing the latest inductees to the Dedication to Service Hall of Fame

Five leaders who have displayed outstanding dedication to providing quality primary care over the course of their career have been inducted into the Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network Dedication to Service Hall of Fame.
A peer nominated award, the inductees are well respected by peers and patients and actively participate in the community and professional bodies.
The Dedication to Service Awards were presented at the 2023 Quality Care and Innovation Awards held Friday 23 June at Newcastle City Hall.

Christine Connor

Christine has worked for HealthWISE since 2012 and has been team leader for the last two years overseeing a team of five nurses in the Primary Health Care Program who cover the New England Northwest (11 LGAs). Christine is based at Inverell, but mostly can be found travelling between small rural communities, with a car filled with resources and health check supplies, delivering health promotion and education in community halls and schools.

Christine is exceptional in her ability to understand and address the challenges faced by rural communities and understands the value of going into a community where people feel safe and comfortable. Christine has supported many small communities through drought, bushfires, mouse plague, floods, and the COVID pandemic where she worked in small towns to support the Royal Flying Doctors Service vaccination clinics. Well known for coordinating health events for both men and women that attract quality speakers and draw significant numbers of people, Christine is acknowledged widely in the community for her passion and commitment to primary health care.

Dr Joel Wenitong

Dr Joel Wenitong started his career as a High School Teacher. Wanting to help his ‘mob’ further, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. Joel dedicated himself to medical studies and now is one of our region’s top indigenous GPs. A father to six children and rap/DJ artist, Joel volunteers his services in many Indigenous sporting communities as well as being a GP at Nelson Plaza Clinic in Nelson Bay.

He has been instrumental in establishing ‘Better Health Outcomes for Indigenous Youth’ days at Tomaree High School, an initiative met with such success that it is being expanded to high schools across Port Stephens. Joel’s passion in helping youth has resulted in planning now underway for a regular clinic for students aged between 14 and 18 at Nelson Bay. He will consult at the free ‘drop in - no appointment needed’ clinic to give youth access to a safe and private medical space where they can get help. Living on the Tomaree peninsula makes access to services and information difficult and Joel is bridging that gap and making an incredible difference to his patient’s lives and health outcomes in the Port Stephens area and beyond.

Aunty Di (Dianne) O’Brien

Taken at birth from her Aboriginal mother as part of the stolen generation, and not discovering her Aboriginal heritage until her 30’s, Aunty Di has taken her trauma and life experience and turned it into a story of strength, resilience, compassion, and determination. Aunty Di is a well-respected leader not only within the Aboriginal community, but beyond. She has been selfless in her advocacy for First Nations health and wellness for over 50 years.

Aunty Di has worked for Central Coast Primary Care for over 12 years and was a key influencer in establishing the Mingaletta Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation at Umina. She spent many years prior as an Aboriginal Health Worker across various parts of regional NSW. She is tireless in her work for the community, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and has been instrumental in shaping Aunty Jean’s Program and reconciliation actions within Central Coast Primary Care. Aunty Di has been recognised by various government departments for her tireless service and is the celebrated author of the book “Daughter of the River Country” a memoir recounting her story of her life in three parts - Lost, Searching & Found.

Dr Maggie Lane

Dr Maggie Lane has worked tirelessly to provide the highest quality primary care as a GP for over 15 years, 10 of which have been in the Hunter Region. Maggie delivers excellent clinical care to her patients and has a dedicated core group who have stayed with her for many years. In addition to her role in general practice Maggie has also served refugee clinics, homeless clinics, nursing homes and group homes.

During the recent pandemic she led the COVID-19 response at her clinic, which included numerous COVID and influenza vaccination sessions. Often the clinics were run without any nursing support and on weekends. Maggie put in extensive after hours work in education and staff training to ensure the highest standard of care for staff and patients. Maggie is dedicated to improving systems, compliance and patient care within her practice and supports staff to do the same. Strongly committed to evidence-based medicine, she always works with the highest of integrity.

Dr Colette Hourigan

Dr Colette Hourigan has dedicated her life to improving the health outcomes of women and children who experience domestic and family violence. As a women’s health GP, Colette spent most of her career delivering medical care in a Community Health Centre and most recently is providing bulk billed outreach medical services to women and children fleeing violence in refuge accommodation on the Central Coast. Colette has been a mentor to many female GPs looking to enter the women’s health specialty, providing supervision, training, and advice.

Over her career, she has worked on HealthPathways and lectured in women’s health and provided the most vulnerable communities access to quality, respectful and trauma-informed health care. During the past two years Colette has been pioneering a Domestic Family Violence pilot with the PHN, rolling out GP training across the region, and championing GPs to support their patients. She integrates work with multi-partner agencies to strengthen the project. This ambitious and mammoth task has been successful in helping the whole community, starting with the professionals all the way at every level through to the patient and their children.

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