2012 Faculty of Health Sciences Alumni Award winners

The 2012 Faculty Alumni Awards were presented by Mrs Penny Coombes, Former Head of School - Occupational Therapy, 1972 to 1981 and currently Managing Director of The People for Places and Spaces, at the Annual Awards night held on Tuesday 29th May in MacLaurin Hall.

On behalf of the faculty and the Health Sciences Alumni Association we congratulate the following winners:

Alumni Award for Community Achievement

Dayna Veraguth
Bachelor of Applied Science (Leisure and Health) 2007

As an undergraduate student Dayna demonstrated a genuine passion for a career in animal assisted therapy and pet services.  She explored the professional opportunities that existed within Australia and overseas to discover that animal assisted therapy was an emerging field yet to gain professional momentum.  Disappointed and frustrated by the lack of opportunity to pursue her desired career, she decided to create her own.  In her final year at University Dayna established and launched her own Animal Assisted Therapy Service, the first of its kind in Australia.  Her service aims to unite health professionals with animal behaviour specialists to create customised Animal Assisted Interventions in order to engage, inspire and empower individuals.  Today her Animal Assisted Therapy Services remains on the leading edge of innovative services within Australia and internationally.  

Dayna’s services not only include working with children with a range of issues but also adults with a physical disability.
Dayna is a true leader with a commitment to assist people in our society who often fall through the cracks due to their challenging circumstances.
 smiling woman receiving award

Alumni Award for International Achievement

Kirsty Thompson
Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy) (Honours) 1996
Doctor of Philosophy (Occupation and Leisure Sciences) 2007

Kirsty was originally employed by CBM Australia (an International Christian development organisation, committed to improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities in the poorest countries of the world) as a “disability specialist” to encourage disability considerations to be embedded into rebuilding and rehabilitation responses to the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004.  Kirsty did an outstanding job with this assignment, which also went on to include the large earthquake in Pakistan, in October 2005.

Kirsty has been working towards a more inclusive society for men, women, girls and boys with disability for over 18 years and is considered a valuable asset to the international community, leading and supporting institutional, national and community level developments that recognise people with disabilities as equal citizens.

Kirsty’s role in creating and advocating on behalf of the ‘Australian Disability and Development Consortium’  played a critical role in influencing government policy regarding Australia’s aid program and its ability to recognise and reach the world’s poorest and those with a disability.

Within the development sector, Kirsty Thompson has been a driving force to promote disability inclusive development.  Her passion for this has been relentless and has resulted in many key achievements.
woman smiling

Alumni Award for Professional Achievement

Philip Coles
Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy) 1998
Master of Health Science (Sports Physiotherapy) 2007

Phil completed his Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy) in the Faculty in 1997, and as one of the top students in the University he was invited to join the Golden Key Honours Society. He also completed a Masters of Sports Physiotherapy in 2006 and graduated as a Specialist Sports Physiotherapist in 2007, a significant but rare accolade. Since that time he has become an internationally acclaimed sports physiotherapist.

After a career in clinical practice combined with a part-time lectureship at the University, Phil became the Young Socceroos Physiotherapist, working as the sole physiotherapist for the team. He then became the Head Physiotherapist for the Socceroos until 2007. His work involved touring with the team, managing injuries and developing high performance strategies.

His success was recognised internationally and he was recruited to the UK where he was appointed Head of Physical Therapies Department and Head Physiotherapist for the Liverpool Football Club in 2010, a position he holds today. In this role he completely overhauled the delivery of health care within the unit, instigating new rehabilitation policies and procedures. In Phil’s first season with Liverpool there was a significant drop in the number of soft tissue injuries due to the introduction of an extensive injury prevention program driven by Phil.

He is generous in sharing his expertise with the next generation of health professionals, and is leading the field of sports physiotherapy internationally.
man in red and white sports uniform

Young Alumni Award for Achievement

 Alexandra Croak
Bachelor of Applied Sciences (Occupational Therapy) 2010
Master of Health Sciences (Sexual Health) 2012

Alexandra is only the fifth Australian woman to become an Olympian in two different sports. As a gymnast, she competed in Artistic Gymnastics at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. As a diver she competed in the 10m plated at the Beijing 2010 Olympic Games. Alexandra is also the first ever Commonwealth Games athlete to achieve gold medals in two different sports with gymnastics in Manchester in 1992 and diving in Delhi in 2010.

Aside from competing in her chosen sports and completing both a Bachelor’s and  Master’s degree, she also regularly gives her time as an Ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the  Australia Day Committee and Camp Quality.  

Her commitment to her academic and sporting pursuits, and her passion to give back to the community are exemplary and truly single her out as a ‘high achieving’ young alumni.
smiling woman receiving award

Recognition Award for Clinical Education

Susan Said
Diploma of Applied Science Medical Radiation Technology (1990)

Susan is responsible for the supervision and implementation of training programs for student radiographers who attend the radiology department at Westmead Hospital for clinical placement. This demands that Susan perform both a clinical and educator role. Susan conducts regular education sessions for students and has developed one-on-one mentoring to enhance their experience.

Susan has devoted considerable personal time to participating in student planning forums conducted by the University and endeavours to make the clinical experience of the students valuable. The students who attend a placement at Westmead have high praise for Susan and the experience she provides for them there, describing her as a “great clinical supervisor”.