Leading with WHY

IconI was privileged to be able to speak as a patient representative at Radical, the annual national meeting of the Icon Medical Physics team. I had radiation treatment at Icon Springfield (under the name ROC) in 2018.

Icon Group is Australia’s largest dedicated provider of cancer care with a growing reach into New Zealand and Asia. The Group is built on a strong but simple vision: “to deliver the best care possible to as many people as possible, as close to home as possible”. Having access to care just 5 minutes’ drive from home was a big part of what helped me cope with treatment, and I cannot fault the care I received—in my case, all under Australia’s public health system, Medicare.

As I said in my speech, since I reluctantly became a member of the cancer patient community, I’ve become aware at how frustrated some cancer patients are at the sense they are not being heard by the army of medical professionals to whom they entrust their care. Speaking felt like a small, tangible way to give back to the patient community that supported me. I came away feeling even more grateful to the professional community that treated me.

To be honest, when I first started radiation, I had no idea that there was a full-time medical physicist on staff at the centre to look after the complex and dangerous machinery that offers people like me better chances of survival. To be really honest, I had no idea there was even such a thing as medical physicists…

Most patients never meet the medical physicist that keeps the miraculous machinery working safely. We thank the doctor, the nurses, the radiation therapists, even the receptionists, but we are, for the most part, oblivious to the existence of the highly educated person (all the medical physicists are have postgraduate qualifications to at least Masters level) behind the scenes who has invested years in developing the highly specialised knowledge required to make our treatment possible. 

When I was introduced, Trent Aland the National Director of Physics, said I was there to talk about ‘the why’. Engaging team members in the purpose of the work they do is a leadership principle I firmly believe in. It was Simon Sinek’s 2009 TED Talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action that got me onto the idea. That was the year I was first appointed to a head of department role, and the principle helped me navigate some major challenges, like a forced downsize. Having me speak to the Physics team is a great example of Sinek’s principle in action.

When Mark Middleton, the Group Chief Executive Officer, was addressing the group before me, there was a bunch of stuff that went over my head. I work at a university, and am pretty well read, but this is really specialised knowledge. What I did understand was how lucky we are in Australia to have such high quality care—not only available, but available through the public health system. The Icon Group are extending their reach into South East Asia, and Mark spoke about the poor quality of care in some of those places. I was inspired by their dedication to patient care, and the commitment of the leadership group to communicating the values of the organisation to their people.

You can read the text of my speech here.

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