Here’s cheers to our rheum Oz Day winner

4 minute read

Rheumatology was represented on the Australia Day Honours list for 2020 with Professor Rachelle Buchbinder commended for her dedication to the specialty

Shining stars in the medical profession have been rewarded in the 2020 Australia Day Honours List for their outstanding contributions to healthcare and the community.

Professor Bruce Robinson, an endocrinologist based at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, was the only doctor appointed a Companion of the Order (AC), the nation’s highest honour.

As one of five Australians appointed, Professor Robinson was commended for his eminent service to medical research and to national healthcare, through policy development and reform, and to tertiary education.

Since 2015, Professor Robinson’s most notable posts include chair of the NHMRC and chair of the MBS Review Taskforce.

A total of 63 individuals working as clinicians, medical educators or in medical research were honoured this year.

One rheumatologist, Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, director of the Monash-Cabrini Institute Department of Clinical Epidemiology in Melbourne since its foundation, was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to medical education in the fields of epidemiology and rheumatology, and to professional associations.

Professor Buchbinder told The Rheumatology Republic she knew her late parents, both child holocaust survivors who immigrated to Australia, would have been proud of her achievement.

“I am so lucky to have been born in this country. Both of my parents gave me the sense that I could achieve anything, even though both of them, because of their tragic circumstances, had their education cut short,” she said. “They always told me I’d go to university.”

Both surprised and humbled to be bestowed the nation’s second highest honour, Professor Buchbinder said her career success wouldn’t be possible without the support of her husband and family.

“It’s been a huge privilege for me to combine my work as a doctor and an academic to improve people’s lives with arthritis and musculoskeletal issues,” she said.

Professor Buchbinder’s work as an Australian NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow focuses on finding and implementing effective treatments for arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions. She is one of the founding members and current steering group chair of the Australia and New Zealand Musculoskeletal (ANZMUSC) Clinical Trials Network.

“My work is also focused on trying to educate the public and clinicians about how to use evidence to guide clinical decision making and reduce low-value care,” she said.

And Professor Buchbinder has not been shy about questioning practice either. After publishing a systematic review on efficacy of subacromial decompression surgery for shoulder pain last year, Professor Buchbinder appeared in mainstream media warning the public it was no better than placebo.

“My work sometimes finds that well established treatments don’t actually work. This doesn’t always win me friends, but it’s about keeping the patients in mind and working out what’s best for them,” she said.

As a part of the Wiser Healthcare collaboration, Professor Buchbinder works alongside other Australian academics and clinicians to reduce overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

“I feel really strongly that the public need to be told about the potential benefits and harms of tests and treatments so that they can make evidence-based decisions about their own health,” she said. “I want to improve the health literacy of the general population and their competence to ask their clinicians questions.

But Professor Buchbinder also attributed her achievements to the team at Cabrini Health and Monash University and her colleagues interstate and overseas who continuously support and motivate her.

“It’s not just me – I have a wonderful group of people around me who believe in what we do and inspire me to continue to try and make a difference.”

Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia. If you know someone worthy, nominate them now at

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