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Why Robyn is a Queensland Great

Dr Robyn Rodwell, Director of Queensland Cord Blood Bank at Mater and Chief Scientist of Haematology Molecular Genetics, never shies away from a challenge and throughout her career as a medical scientist she has taken on some big ones.

An example would be her involvement in setting up the Queensland Cord Blood Bank at Mater a little over 11 years ago.

Dr Rodwell played a key role in making Mater Director of Haematology Kerry Taylor’s vision for the ‘Bank’, which provides cords (blood collected from the umbilical cord and placenta of consenting mothers following delivery of their babies) to patients worldwide requiring stem cell transplants, become a reality.

She travelled to New York and Paris to study successful blood bank set-ups and bring back operational ideas. Then she partnered with Mater Foundation Executive Director Nigel Harris canvassing philanthropic organisations such as the Leukaemia Foundation, Lions Clubs and Ronald McDonald House Charities for the $1 million needed to create the Queensland Cord Blood Bank (QCBB).

Today, a decade since it banked its first cord, the QCBB releases up to 29 cord units to patients each year and is an important contributor to cellular therapy in locations throughout the world.

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In June 2009, Dr Rodwell’s contribution to the success of the QCBB and her role in various other successful medical projects were recognised when she was named by Premier Anna Bligh as a ‘Queensland Great’.

The Queensland Greats Awards honour individuals and institutions whose long term or lifetime achievements have played a significant role in the history and development of Queensland.

She was one of five outstanding Queenslanders to receive the annual award.

Dr Rodwell was joined by philanthropist Philip Bacon AM, Angel Flight Founder Bill Bristow AM, singer, songwriter and educator Kevin Carmody and community supporter Anthony Ryan.

"Each Queensland Great—Phillip Bacon, Bill Bristow, Kev Carmody, Robyn Rodwell and Anthony Ryan—has made a remarkable and highly individual contribution, not just in their field, but to the broader Queensland community and they are an inspiration to all," Premier Anna Bligh said.

As well as Dr Rodwell’s long-standing involvement with the Queensland Cord Blood Bank, she has led various oncology research projects, developed a test to screen newborn babies for infections and has made significant contributions to medical education for medical, scientific, nursing and community groups.

Despite this, Dr Rodwell is modest when discussing her Queensland Great achievement.

“I view this as an external accolade for Mater – in particular the QCBB, Mater Pathology, the Clinical Transplant and Molecular Genetics Laboratory teams and the Mater Foundation,” Dr Rodwell said.

“In my various roles, including the Queensland Cord Blood Bank, I feel privileged to lead a very talented multi-disciplinary group of people.

“Together with the obstetric and neonatal teams at Mater Mothers’ Hospitals and Logan Hospital we have built something that is helping to save the lives of patients with aggressive disease—patients for whom other treatments have not worked.

"Families are sharing the joy of childbirth by donating their cord blood that traditionally was discarded and in doing so are saving lives. It is an extraordinary concept and the ultimate form of medical recycling. It is very fulfilling to see it in practice each day.”

Dr Robyn Rodwell, a Queensland Great

Dr Robyn Rodwell, a Queensland Great.


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