Each day as I visit patients on the ward, I carry the memory of my husband in my heart.
As the wife of the late Professor Chris O’Brien AO, Gail O'Brien AO has played an instrumental role in supporting her husband’s vision for Australia to have its own world-class, fully integrated and comprehensive cancer care facility.
Gail was by Chris’ side from when he was initially diagnosed with brain cancer, until he passed away in 2009.
Since then, Gail has not only maintained her commitment to improved cancer care and the establishment of the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, but in the midst of her grief (for her husband and also her eldest son Adam who died suddenly in 2011 from undiagnosed epilepsy) she stepped forward to fill the gap left by Chris' death, joining the Board of Directors and taking on the role of steward for the culture and vision of Chris O'Brien Lifehouse.
A tireless advocate for cancer patients, Gail O’Brien was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia in 2018 for her commitment to improving the lives of people with cancer.
As well as helping patients navigate the difficult waters of a cancer diagnosis, Gail has been pivotal in raising millions of dollars for cancer research and treatment
Gail has a strong background in health. In addition to her role with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Gail is also a practicing physiotherapist, working within the hospital sector in the area of orthopaedic rehabilitation.
Gail originally trained as a physiotherapist at the NSW College of Paramedical Studies and was initially appointed to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital as a physiotherapy resident in 1976.
It was during this time she first met and then married Chris and in 1980 they travelled to the United Kingdom and United States to further his training in head and neck surgery. Upon returning to Australia, Gail went on to manage Chris’ busy practice from 1987 until 2006.
During this time, Gail also helped Chris launch the Sydney Head and Neck Cancer Institute based at RPA, managing events and raising funds for their basic and clinical research programs on head and neck cancer. This work has continued in line with her involvement with Lifehouse.
Having been born into a medical family and working within the health sector during her career, Gail has always been fascinated by the world of medicine and what it can offer, particularly in the area of cancer care and treatment. Her first-hand experience, knowledge, passion and understanding are invaluable to her continuing role with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
I’m immensely proud that the difference for patients and their carers in the future will be Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. This facility will create generational change, particularly in the emerging area of integrative medicine.