Life On The Job

Famous or Historic People

Professor Dr. Charles Teo (24 December 1957 - ) NEUROSURGEON

In theatre


Dr. Charles ‘Charlie’ Teo is an Australian neurosurgeon. He is the only Australian neurosurgeon to be Board Certified in both Australia and the US. Charlie is often making headlines for performing radical surgeries on tumours that had been deemed inoperable by other neurosurgeons, and is described as “controversial and charismatic”.

He was a state finalist for Australian of the Year, founded the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, and is regularly making headlines for his “controversial” methods. (Source: The Saturday Paper)

Dr Charlie Teo is a controversial and charismatic brain surgeon. Director of Sydney’s Centre for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery , he has a huge international reputation for doing radical surgery on tumours that other neurosurgeons consider inoperable. Patients come to him from all over Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Britain, South-east Asia and Europe.

The techniques and skills that Charlie offers have saved or extended the lives of many children from Australia and abroad with so-called inoperable brain tumours. So, understandably, his patients see him as a miracle worker. But he is cold-shouldered by many fellow neurosurgeons, who describe him as a cowboy and a magnet for controversy. (Source: ABC)

Charlie devotes three months a year to educating neurosurgeons from developing countries such as Peru, Indonesia and Vietnam, and treating children with neurological conditions in those countries.

In 2007 he was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship for his contribution to International Health and Welfare and in 2008 the Humanitarian Service Award by Rotary International. He will be the Invited Guest Speaker at the International Conference on Happiness and this year will share the podium with the Dalai Lama at the Mind and Its Potential Conference.

Charlie lives in Sydney with his wife Genevieve and their four daughters, Alex, Nikki, Katie and Sophie. He loves his motorbike and Abba, and is guided by the principle that a doctor should always treat his patients as he would a member of his own family.

with his family
Dr Teo with his wife Genevieve and their 4 daughters
(Source: Blogspot)

Early Life

Charlie was born on the 24th of December 1957 to Chinese-Singaporean parents, Elizabeth and Phillip. His parents immigrated to Australia in 1950.

As a child
Charlie with his sister Annie
(Source: Mamamia)


He attended The Scots College as a young boy.

Later Charlie attended the University of New South Wales, graduating in 1981 with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.

After I decided I wanted to do medicine I had to do something with my hands. I had to be practical and surgery just seemed the natural speciality to get into.” Dr Charlie Teo (Source: ABC Austory - no longer available)

After graduating from the University of NSW medical school he embarked initially on a career in paediatric surgery and then neurosurgery, finally sub-specialising in paediatric neurosurgery.

With Mum
Graduating from UNSW - with his Mum Elizabeth

He practised for 10 years in the USA, and since returning to Australia has continued to develop pioneering procedures. He is invited back to the USA several times a year to teach courses in his particular keyhole approach to neurosurgery.

Employment & Training:


with images

(Source: ABC News 7 May 2011)

Upon completing his training in neurosurgery in Sydney, Charlie says no one was willing to give him a job- due to the controversy surrounding his name. So he wrote to all the neurosurgeons in America he had heard about and landed himself a job in the States. He remained there for a decade.

It was during this time that Charlie contributed to the development of neuroendoscopy- a new procedure that allows for minimally-invasive keyhole surgery. Charlie says that they were able to start doing operations that weren’t done before, and that they were finding “great success with these operations”. (Source: ABC Austory - no longer available)

Charlie’s methods are so controversial, that some in the field refuse to refer their patients to him. Despite this reputation, Charlie has extended the lives of countless children and adults with brain tumours, and is one of Australia’s most highly regarded brain surgeons.

Charlie’s peers are not critical nor doubtful of his skill, acknowledging his “good hands and technique”. The criticism comes with what they describe to be “unjustified risks and cost”, because an operation by Charlie does not come cheap. In turn, Charlie has also criticised his peers for their rejection of him, which he has attributed to jealousy and a cowardly reluctance to perform the operations Charlie does. For many people, Charlie is the last option. Where other surgeons have deemed the risk too high, or the surgery ineffective, Charlie will operate. But for the families of those who have been operated on by Charlie, they are forever grateful for the extension of life he has granted their loved ones.

“A significant percentage of my patients have been told that their tumours are inoperable, and I have not agreed with that assessment. This is where I’ve really got myself into a lot of trouble.” Dr. Charlie Teo (Source: ABC Austory - no longer available)

YouTube: False Hope? There's No Such Thing | Charlie Teo | TEDxSydney


YouTube: Charlie Teo Unplugged | Studio 10 (URL:


YouTube: Curing the Incurable - Dr Charlie Teo (URL:



He has been recognised with awards from Rotary International, and was a finalist in the NSW Australian of the Year awards in 2003 and again in 2009. In the 2011 Australia Day awards he was made a Member of the Order of Australia.

In 2001, Charlie founded the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation (formally Cure For Life Foundation). It is now the peak brain cancer organisation in Australia, supporting research initiatives and international collaborations.

Charlie has written more than 70 publications and 30 book chapters. He has been featured on Australian Story 5 times, 60 Minutes, Good Medicine, and Today Tonight.

In 2012 he gave the Australia Day address, and in 2013 he became the first Australian to address US Congress, speaking about Brain Mapping.

Did You Know?

Dr. Charlie Teo will not operate on a patient unless he is wearing his lucky socks!

An awake craniotomy is a type of procedure performed on the brain while you are awake and alert! This allows the surgeon to ensure they are treating the correct area of your brain to surgery.

The human brain is 73% water.

Our brain contains roughly 86 billion brain cells


Dr Charles Teo - Facebook

Charlie Teo Foundation

CT Foundation
National Portrait Gallery


SBS: Who Do You Think You Are?
24 April 2018

Sun Herald: 5 minutes with...

Sun Herald


What music would you play? (Activitiy created by Anabel Mifsud, ACU student)


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



1. Many surgeons listen to music while in theatre. The following article interviews some surgeons about their choice of music - The Guardian 6 August 2015 Reading

The Guardian

2. If you were a surgeon, what songs/artists would you have on your playlist and why?

Share with a partner.


3. Is this the same playlist to get your bedroom cleaned?

Create this playlist on YouTube



Australia Day 2012 Address by Dr Charles Teo: Analysis (adapted from Oxford University Press - PDF p14)

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  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

Intercultural UnderstandingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Intercultural understanding


Cooperative LearningCooperative Learning Activity



1. In groups of 4 - 5 students, read the following full address  by Dr Charlie Teo for Australia Day 2012  Reading

Australia Day Address


2. Re-read this address and note down:

  • Any personal information about Dr Teo

  • His views on immigration

  • His views and experience of racism

  • 3 words to describe Dr Teo

  • 3 new ideas

3. Discuss as a group your answers to the above points.

4. Dr Teo describes often that Australia is great. In his speech, Teo describes his life and the challenges of growing up Asian in Australia. He is concerned that there is still some racism in Australia, but even so he thinks Australian people are wonderful and Australia is ‘the greatest place on Earth to live’.

. Why do you think he was chosen to present this speech on Australia Day?

b. List the five arguments he makes about Australia and his experiences. Identify five language choices he makes to present his ideas and attitudes.

c. Analyse

  • Write an 800-word analysis of his speech, discussing its purpose, audience and language choices.

  • Alternatively, write a 150–200 word letter to the editor of a major broadsheet newspaper. In your letter share your response to his speech. Before writing your letter, study similar letters to the editor in a variety of newspapers to see their tone and style.

5. Discussion

As a class, discuss the following Philosophical Question 

Is Australia great?

You need to justify your answer by using the word ... "because" and giving a detailed statement.

6. Brainstorm

Brainstorm as a class the question:  "How could Australia improve?"



What could you contribute towards improving Australia?
How could you stop racism in yourself?





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