Dr Wirginia Maixner (MBBS ’86)

Wirginia Maixner

Dr Wirginia Maixner received the 2011 Alumni Award for Professional Achievement for her extraordinary work as a surgeon, her groundbreaking research, and for establishing a course that educates and inspires young neurosurgeons.

Wirginia has been described by colleagues as “the neurosurgeon’s neurosurgeon”, testimony to her reputation as a leading practitioner in this high-pressure discipline.

She grew up on the northern beaches of Sydney and attended the University of Sydney’s School of Medicine (now Sydney Medical School), while residing at Sancta Sophia College. In 1986 she graduated with a combined Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery degree, and became the third woman accepted into the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) four-year neurosurgery training program.

Halfway through training, in the early 1990s, she became pregnant with her daughter (now a teenager). Showing the powerful determination that was to become her career trademark, she remained in the program, persuaded RACS to grant its first-ever maternity leave provision in neurosurgery, and completed the arduous training as a single parent.

She went on to spend time in Paris and Canada, gaining international experience then, at age 38, became one of Australia’s youngest heads of neurosurgery (and the first woman appointed to the role) at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

Wirginia’s research and publications are groundbreaking but she is also renowned for her work as a surgeon. She has performed numerous operations on children suffering rare conditions, all of which required meticulous attention to detail, stamina and considerable courage. In 2007 she performed the first auditory brainstem implant on a child in Australasia; described as a procedure that “could pave the way for revolutionary advances in medicine”.

She is also admired for her magnanimous teamwork, especially the world-famous 32-hour surgical separation of conjoined twins Trishna and Krishna in 2009 – one of the most complicated cases in medical history.