Life On The Job


Famous or Historic People

Professor Fiona Wood, AM, FRCS, FRACS (2 February 1958 - ) PLASTIC & RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGEON (contributed in part by Ella Barry, Teacher, ACT)

Fiona Wood is one of Australia’s most highly respected plastic and reconstructive surgeons. Fiona is renowned for her innovation and advanced skill set, making her a world leading burns specialist. Fiona established early on in her career she wanted become more than just a doctor, Fiona desired to combine research, invention and surgery into her medical practice.

Portrait

“I don’t think any of us should get up in the morning and be average. I don’t think my patients would be happy if I got up in the morning and believed average was good enough.
I think we need to put ourselves in a position with support around us, such we get up in the morning and we do the best that we can. Day in, day out.”

YouTube:
Fiona Wood Foundation - Changing Lives
https://youtu.be/1IhCA-988nQ


Introduction

Professor Wood’s greatest contribution and enduring legacy is her work with co-inventor Marie Stoner, pioneering the innovative ‘spray-on skin’ technique (Recell), where today the technique is used worldwide. Professor Fiona Wood came to prominence for her pioneering plastic surgery work with Bali bombing victims, when she led a courageous Royal Perth Hospital team and saved 28 patients from shocking burns and infection.

Fiona Wood has been a burns surgeon and researcher for over 30 years and is Director of the Burns Service of Western Australia (BSWA). She is a Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Fiona Stanley Hospital and Perth Children's Hospital; co-founder of the first skin cell laboratory in WA; Winthrop Professor in the School of Surgery at The University of Western Australia; and co-founder of the Fiona Wood Foundation (formerly The McComb Foundation).

Fiona Wood was born in a Yorkshire coal mining village. Her parents and the Quaker Ackworth School, inspired her to work hard and serve the community. By 1975 she was studying in St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School, London and challenging the long tradition of restricted entry of women to medical schools and the field of surgery. She married Western Australian-born surgeon Tony Kierath and migrated to Perth in 1987. They have four sons and two daughters.

Fiona with her children
Fiona with her children celebrating being named Australian of the Year 2005
(clockwise from left, Joe, Dan, Tom, Jess, Jack, and Evie)


Early Life

Fiona Melanie Wood was born on 2nd February 1958 at Hernsworth, Yorkshire England. Wood was raised in a mining village in Yorkshire. Athletic as a youth, she had originally dreamed of becoming an Olympic sprinter before eventually setting her sights on a medical career.

Education:

She attended Ackworth School near Pontefract, West Yorkshire.

"Fiona was so bright her own teachers thought she might be stupid, mad or both. Eventually, she skipped a year and became head girl and the dux of the school." (Source: David Leser)

She was one of twelve women who began their medical careers at St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School in London where she graduated in 1981.  

Surgery, for me, was a no-brainer. I was very excited and interested by anatomy – which may sound strange, but it was one of those things that I really was interested in. And the obvious place to go from anatomy was into surgery. I simply thought, ‘It’s not a question of whether I’ll be a surgeon, it’s just where and when.’ So that was my approach. And my approach to people who told me that girls didn’t do that was that I was very good at needlework. Actually, I do like embroidery, when I have the time!

She found herself drawn to plastic surgery and recognised that she wanted a career that combined research, innovation and surgery.  Fiona had known she wanted to specialise early on in her career, before she could do this she needed to complete a general surgical fellowship, which she completed at several hospitals around London. “…plastic surgery was always very much more interesting, in that it was innovative and at that time it was exciting, as the microsurgery wave was just starting. Lots of really different things were happening, whether it be microsurgery or tissue expansion. I realised that I had to have a CV that would get me the job – since I didn’t have the genes, I had to have the CV. [laugh] And so I got involved in research early and with plastic surgical teams.” Fiona studied anatomy, specifically anatomical dissections and anatomy for free tissue transfer as a medical student. From there she enrolled in a Bachelor of Medical Science which involved a full year centred around research. “When I look at a standard anatomy text I find that, as with a lot of things, when you start to gain knowledge and you start to peel the onion it gets more and more interesting.”

She worked under the supervision of the plastic surgical team consultant, Mr. Brian Mayou, who would become one of the influential people in Professor Wood’s life. While working at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, where she developed a strong interest and experience in congenital issues such as cleft palate, Professor Professor Wood’s curiosity was stimulated through exposure to many forms of scarring. Through her research, Fiona was drawn to scarring and its many different forms, this became her passion throughout her career. She was accepted for a position at the Queen Victoria Hospital in Sussex, which had a burns unit, and so began the start of her lifelong dedication to burns medicine.

 

The Conversation
(Source: The Conversation)


Employment & Training:

Wood proceeded to earn her primary fellowship (1983) and fellowship (1985) from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS).

She moved to Perth with her Australian husband, surgeon Tony Keirath, with their first two children in 1987. Professor Wood not long after arriving in Perth sought out the late Harold McComb, a brilliant plastic surgeon and Founding Member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. She describes him as, “an extraordinary man and an extraordinary plastic surgeon. He was always questioning the boundaries and looking to improve.” Professor McComb was an inspirational person in Professor Wood’s life. The Fiona Wood Foundation was formerly known as the McComb Foundation (established in 1999).

She became Western Australia’s first female plastic surgeon, after earning her fellowship from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) in plastic and reconstructive surgery (1991) between having four more children.. Professor Fiona Wood’s dedication to improving outcomes for burns patients and expanding the knowledge of wound healing began in 1991 when she became trained as West Australia’s first female plastic surgeon. Professor Wood’s ability to lead a team and direct innovation for future clinical care was recognised as she quickly became a leader in her field. She became the Director of the Burns Service of Western Australia at an early point in her career. In this position Professor Wood has led the Burns Service of Western Australia to be recognised internationally as a leader in burns care.

In 1992 Wood became head of the burn unit at Royal Perth Hospital (RPH), which moved its facilities to Fiona Stanley Hospital in 2014. She also served as a clinical professor at the School of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Western Australia and directed the McComb Research Foundation (now the Fiona Wood Foundation), which she founded in 1999.

From the early 1990s Wood focused her research on improving established techniques of skin repair. Her spray-on skin repair technique involved taking a small patch of healthy skin from a burn victim and using it to grow new skin cells in a laboratory. The new cells were then sprayed onto the patient’s damaged skin. With traditional skin grafts, 21 days were necessary to grow enough cells to cover extensive burns. Using spray-on skin, Wood was able to lower that amount of time to just 5 days [and now just 30minutes is required].

Spray on Skin
Spray on Skin

In action
In action

Wood patented her technique and in 1999 cofounded a company, Clinical Cell Culture, to release the technology worldwide. The company went public in 2002, with much of the money it generated being used to fund further research.

 

The Bali Bombing

In 2002 Fiona services were needed more than ever after a bomb explosion at a popular holiday spot in Bali, Indonesia, left many victims severely burnt and in desperate need of care. Within 24 hours patients were flown from Bali to the Royal Perth Hospital where she was working. ''I had never worked in military medicine,'' Dr Wood says. ''I had never worked in a war zone, so it was certainly beyond what we had treated in the past.'' Of the twenty-eight patients in her care, Fiona was able to save twenty-five people some of whom had suffered burns over more than 90 percent of their bodies. A monumental achievement!

Her technique was considered a significant advance in clinical skin repair, helping to reduce scarring in patients with extensive burns and speed their rate of recovery.

This advanced technique was only one of the ways in which Dr Wood's team had been almost eerily well prepared for a large intake of burns victims.

For starters, a Royal Perth Hospital registrar had been in Bali when the attacks took place and had alerted Dr Wood many victims were coming her way.

The hospital had also already trialled a burns catastrophe strategy, developed with the oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum in 2001 amid fears of a disaster at one of their facilities, such as its offshore oil drilling platforms.

As well as the plan to roll out spray-on skin on an unprecedented scale, the strategy included new ways to transport severely burnt people, propping them up in precise positions to ensure their airways were open and the circulation of blood to the wounds was maximised to control swelling.

It would be an extraordinary triumph. Dr Wood's spray-on skin technology, which had been met with some scepticism internationally, has been adopted around the world and become a standard treatment for severe burns.

"The first wave of Bali victims arrived at the Royal Perth Hospital within 26 hours of the bombings. By Tuesday, October 15, 2002, most of the others were there as well - 28 coming via Darwin, then three from the east coast. (Normally, the hospital would average 10 major burns patients per year.)

All elective surgery had to be stopped, new theatres opened up, blood and surgical reconstruction products urgently sought, and a team of 150 surgeons, anaesthetists, physiotherapists, plus psychiatrists, nurses, dieticians, pain specialists and infection control experts brought in, indeed, a whole surgical plan drawn up to meet the crisis. For five days and nights, Fiona and her team worked tirelessly to cope with terrorism's bloody harvest - massive burns, shrapnel wounds, blast injuries, dehydration, shock and the onset of blood-borne infections." (Source: David Leser)

In March 2007 Wood also cared for several victims of an airplane crash at Yogyakarta Airport, in Indonesia.

A sample of Fiona's daily schedule

4.30am up to do paperwork
6am - 40km bike ride.
8am - wards round of burns unit

Cycling is a hobby
Fiona cycles each day

Paperwork
Shower
Interview with The Weekly
State Library to launch a campaign for the Australian Childhood Foundation
Press conference
Two research meetings
Pick up children and drop them at sports practice
Conducts a three way research meeting with England and Belgium
Picks up children
Goes home and cooks dinner
Does more paperwork
(Source: David Leser)

Contribution


One of Fiona's early achievements was the development of a skin culture lab that she co-founded with scientist Marie Stoner. Professor Wood and Marie recognised the potential of tissue engineering technology to treat burns (called cultural epithelial autograph or CEA) and in 1993 developed a skin culture facility with support from a Telethon grant.

Their product evolved from confluent sheets of CEA to aerosol-delivered cell-clusters and is today known as ‘spray-on skin’. Quite simply, healthy skin cells are cultured and sprayed onto the wound in very sterile conditions. The skin cells then grow on the individual. This technology, commercialised through Clinical Cell Culture Pty Ltd (now AvitaMedical), is a world-first and has been used on more than 1000 patients around the world..

Professor Wood’s greatest contribution and enduring legacy is her work pioneering the innovative ‘spray-on skin’ technique (Recell), which greatly reduces permanent scarring in burns victims.

Professor Wood patented her method in 1993 and today the technique is used worldwide.

IIn October 2002, Fiona was propelled into the media spotlight when the largest proportion of survivors from the 2002 Bali bombings arrived in Perth where Fiona led the medical team at Royal Perth Hospital to save many lives.

Voted Australia’s Most Trusted Person between 2005 and 2010, Professor Wood’s unwavering dedication to burns survivors and commitment to improving and continually evolving the treatment of burn injury, has earned her a reputation as one of the world’s leading burn experts.

Anh Do's Fiona Wood
Fiona's portrait by Anh Do


Her business

Wood started a company now called Avita Medical to commercialise the procedure. Her business came about after a schoolteacher arrived at Royal Perth Hospital in 1992 with petrol burns to 90% of his body. Wood turned to the emerging US-invented technology of cultured skin to save his life, working nights in a laboratory along with scientist Marie Stoner. The two women began to explore tissue engineering. They moved from growing skin sheets to spraying skin cells; earning a worldwide reputation as pioneers in their field. The company started operating in 1993 and now cultures small biopsies into bigger volumes of skin cell suspensions in as few as five days. This service is used by surgeons in Sydney, Auckland and Birmingham. Cells can be delivered via aircraft and ready for use the next day in many cases. Royalties from licensing will be ploughed back into a research fund, named the McComb Foundation and later the Fiona Wood Foundation.


YouTube: Professor Fiona Wood - Pioneering burns medicine [contains images of burns]
https://youtu.be/KlJnHme9b6I

 

YouTube: Dr Fiona Wood on spray on skin
https://youtu.be/mrxLBpy0_10

YouTube: Who Invented Spray-on Skin? - Behind the News
https://youtu.be/-KFM3FyzEmc

 

YouTube: Professor Fiona Wood Interview [15m]
https://youtu.be/YSiUcQgh0S8

 

YouTube: Repairing burn wounds through skin regeneration: Fiona Wood at TEDxFlanders
 https://youtu.be/xY7kVVS2HVY

 

YouTube: Dr Fiona Wood inspirational speech on innovation in Australia
https://youtu.be/uZSYa2Cz5xQ

 

YouTube: Success & Leadership breakfast with Professor Fiona Wood [57m]
https://youtu.be/0aef_ODomIM

 

YouTube: Repairing burn wounds through skin regeneration: Fiona Wood at TEDxFlanders
https://youtu.be/xY7kVVS2HVY

 

 

Awards

  • Fiona was named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2003.

  • In 2004 she was awarded the Western Australia Citizen of the Year award for her contribution to Medicine in the field of burns research.

  • Fiona was then named Australian of the Year for 2005.

  • Fiona and Marie Stoner, co-founders of Clinical Cell Culture, now Avitamedical, won the 2005 Clunies Ross Award for their contributions to Medical Science in Australia.

  • She is an Australian Living Treasure.

  • Fiona is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science.



Did You Know?

ReCell combines the speed and reliability of a skin graft with the small donor site of artificially grown skin. As little as fifteen one-thousands of a centimetre-deep of skin is scraped from an area the size of a postage stamp.

Once taken, the donor site looks like a small rug burn, raw and pink with pinprick bleeding. A full graft leaves the donor site bleeding.

Contained in the thin skin sample are basal stem cells and melanocytes, cells that give skin its particular colour and texture. The structural materials holding these cells in place are dissolved with trypsin, an enzyme harvested from pigs, and then sprayed back onto a burn site.

Once on the burned area, the skin stem cells and melanocytes begin to divide and expand. In less than a week that stamp-sized donor site of skin can turn into a page's worth of new, healthy skin, which matches the tone and texture of the original skin more closely than skin grafts usually do.
(Source: ABC Science)

Money made from Fiona's Spray on Skin goes to funding research to help burns suffers.

Books

Book
(Source: Wild Dingo Press)



Links

Australian Academy of Science

Australian Academy of Science
Fiona Wood Foundation

Fiona Wood Foundation
Conversations with Richard Fidler
23 August 2013
Listen

Conversations with Richard Fidler


Activities

Science Project: Skin, Skin, Skin! A 3D model

PrimaryPrimary

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking

 

1. You and a partner are to create a 3D model of the skin. Look at the following images to give you an idea of the elements involved. Note the differences between each - is there any? What is clearer to understand?

Model of skin

(Source: Research Gate)
Layers of skin



(Source: Children's Wisconsin)
Skin
(Source: Wikipedia)

2. Look at the following video for a simple model

Skin Anatomy Model | How to make skin model project | skin model project for science exhibition
https://youtu.be/ugJdknYJ4nA  

 

With your partner discuss how you could make a "better" model.

3. What will you make your model with? Paper Mache? Plaster? Polystyrene [old Broccoli boxes]? Write down all the elements of the skin you wish to display and tick them off as you make them.

4. Exhibit your model and be ready to explain all the different elements.

 

 

Crossword on Skin

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle 

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

 

1. You are to make a crossword using one of the crossword makers on this page. You are to use 10 or more of the following words:

  • Epidermis
  • Dermis
  • Subcutaneous Tissue
  • Stratum Corneum
  • Granular Cell Layer
  • Spinous Cell Layer
  • Basal Cell Layer
  • Sebaceous Gland
  • Erector Pili Muscle
  • Sweat Gland
  • Nerves
  • Hair Follicle
  • Collagen
  • Elastin Fibres
  • Artery
  • Vein
  • Fat Tissue [Adipose]

2. Look up each word so you will know how to describe it in the clue.

3. Once your crossword is finished get your partner to complete it.

 

Your New Medical Ideas!

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle 

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

 

1. Fiona Wood is renowned for her innovation and enthusiasm for new ideas. Just like Fiona, you are to create a new medicine or medical technique. You are to explain why it is needed and what it can do using the template below.

My Marvellous Medicine

2. Using the site Poster My Wall create a poster advertising your medical product or technique. Include its purpose, how it works, who it can help and why it is necessary.

 

 

How to treat sunburn pain, according to skin experts: Play Kahoot!

 High SchoolSecondary

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

 

1. In pairs, you are to read the following articles from

 

The Conversation 1 January 2021 Read

The Conversation

The Conversation 9 March 2016 Read

The Conversation

2. Re-read the articles and list all the facts and figures. Highlight the new facts that you didn't know.

3. Create a list of 10 questions from the articles and provide 4 answers for each question.

4. Using Kahoot!, put your questions and answers in the programme. To make the game questions more interesting, collect images, initially from the articles but also from other sources for each of your 10 questions and answers. 

Kahoot

5. As a class, play the Kahoot! games and see what you really know.

 

 

 

Materials sourced from
Australian Academy of Science

ANU Gender Institute
Britannica
Australian of the Year
Fiona Wood Foundation
Sydney Morning Herald
Wikipedia

 

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