Queen’s Birthday honour ‘shock’ for Lifehouse stalwart

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Chris O’Brien Lifehouse (COBL) Chairman, Doug Snedden, has spent his life helping others and in recognition of that service, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

The citation for “distinguished services to the community through social welfare, health and cultural institutions” was “a bit of shock” according to Mr Snedden.

“I was actually quite overwhelmed to be honest, but in a nice way,” he said.

“It’s a really significant honour and we all think we just get along in life doing our bit, but to be singled out was … well, overwhelming!

“I’m very fortunate to work with good people, so this is really one for the team.”

As well as being chairman of the Sydney cancer care hospital since 2014, he has also chaired the Board of Odyssey House NSW since 2010. Odyssey House offers alcohol and drug addiction counselling, mental health programs, and family and parent support programs.

“Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is really a major highlight of my career,” Mr Snedden said.

“It was a start-up, with an ambitious vision. We’re a private, not-for-profit that serves both public and private patients.

“And it was a challenge to not only succeed, but to get the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse to where it is today, that’s a real success.”

Mr Snedden also sits on the board of the National Library of Australia Council and was formerly a member of the boards of the Sydney Theatre Company, St Vincent’s Hospital, and the Black Dog Institute.

“In earlier days, when I worked on the board at St Vincent's, they had a very strong culture there,” he said.

“When we started Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, we wondered how long it would take to develop a culture similar to what they have at St Vincent’s.

“Now we have that culture here and it’s very satisfying. Clinical outcomes have changed so much, and to develop a real culture of care and compassion, that’s exactly what we were hoping for.”

Mr Snedden said seeing the advances in medical treatment and better outcomes for patients had been one of the most satisfying aspects of his career.

“The level of innovation is incredible. And we’ve seen improvements in every area – pharmaceuticals, surgery, complementary medicine, people are able to be treated more in the home now and that’s really starting to mature,” he said.

“We’re seeing things integrate better, and we’re better able to personalise medicine.”

Mr Snedden said the COVID-19 pandemic had changed medicine in Australia, in many cases for the better.

“Sometimes out of crises, good things can come. People have proved they can work from home, we’ve seen a good interaction between the private and public systems,” he said.

“The public system were able to offload some of their work to the private sector and the private sector was able to make arrangements with the government about being paid for that work.

“It was largely very successful.”

After being awarded one of Australia’s highest honours, Mr Snedden said he simply wanted to continue “doing his bit”.

“I just want to make sure I continue to earn it (the AO). I’ve had a very rewarding career and I just like to be able to continue to serve where I can,” he said.

“My motivation, certainly at Chris O’Brien, is seeing a great example of how the community can really get involved in the development of services, to achieve a better quality of care.

“The community can be a part of that, and that leads to amazing outcomes.”

Other members of the private hospital sector recognised in the Queen's Birthday honours include:

OFFICER (AO) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA

Professor Geoffrey Metz AM, Melbourne, VIC – For distinguished service to medicine, medical education both nationally and internationally, and professional medical organisations.

Clinical Professor Carol Pollock, Manly NSW – For distinguished service to medical research, education and science, nephrology, and clinical practice and governance.

MEMBER (AM) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA

Associate Professor Kevin Alford, Port Macquarie NSW – For service to medicine as a cardiologist.

Clinical Associate Professor Gary Sholler, Rose Bay NSW – For significant service to paediatric medicine and tertiary medical education.

MEDAL (OAM) OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA IN THE GENERAL DIVISION

Clinical Professor Eugene Athan, Geelong VIC – For service to infectious diseases medicine.

Dr Jan Dudley, Kingsford NSW – For service to obstetrics and gynaecology.

Clinical Professor Peter Gates, Barwon Heads VIC – For service to neurology.

Dr Alexander Levendel, Paddington NSW – For service to cardiology and nuclear medicine.

Dr Mark Pitney, Blakehurst NSW – For service to cardiology.

Dr Hyam Rawicki, St Kilda, VIC – For service to medicine as a rehabilitation specialist.

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