Outgoing Director Georgia Ellis's reflections on research achievements

At the start of 2024, Dr Georgia Ellis (Osteopath) stepped down as one of the association’s directors. Georgia reflects on the impactful initiatives and research achievements during her tenure.

Since 2018, I’ve been honoured to serve as a director on the Board of Osteopathy Australia after being elected by my peers. I was motivated to join the Board because I wanted to collaborate on projects that promoted and advanced osteopathy while also addressing the geographical maldistribution of osteopaths across Australia. As a new Board member, I was eager to contribute and learn.

Osteopathy Australia’s multifaceted efforts to continue to promote osteopathy in primary healthcare amazed me then and continues to do so today. From advocacy in Medicare, NDIS and aged care; to supporting members, CPD and education, engaging stakeholders, the association’s scope is vast. None more so than during COVID, the Board was impressed with Osteopathy Australia’s management and timely information dissemination throughout this challenging time, leading the way and keeping our members informed amid the chaos. Managing Osteopathy Australia’s finances during the pandemic was a challenging yet essential responsibility, and we ensured solid decisions were made with member’s money, thanks to robust support and advice. Over time, our Board has evolved, adopting better governance and decision-making practices, and we hope our work now is improved on again by incoming Board members.

Over the past six years, the Board has invested in many great projects aligned with its strategic planning. We conducted consumer research to find the most impactful words for attracting new patients to osteopaths. From this research, we launched a new brand story, “Shake Your Pain Shadow,” and distributed compliant advertising assets to members nationwide to help attract patients who wouldn’t typically seek osteopathic services. Additional investments were made in upgrading the website and CRM, and the creation of our education platform, OsteoBrain, made it easier to deliver services to members. Recently, we’ve invested in a partnership with Converge International, a provider of professional counselling services for association members, offering six free counselling sessions to any of our members. The Board and the management team also invested in employing senior research and policy officers at the Osteopathy Australia to directly support the aims of our strategic plan.

As part of my role as a Board Director, I also had the privilege of chairing the Research Committee. The reformed committee remodelled strategy and grants, achieving significant financial allocation of Osteopathy Australia’s member's fees of more than $500,000 to support research projects. That’s phenomenal! We developed a research grant program that supported both seeding and project grants up to $12,000 per project. We’ve just closed our fourth grant round and have awarded a total of $200,000 through this program alone. Aside from directly funding osteopathic research, we’ve also supported 10 mid-career osteopathic researchers through the International Osteopathy Research Leadership and Capacity Building Program. We’ve invested in refreshing our national osteopathic practice-based research network (PBRN) project, ORION. Our Senior Research and Projects Officer, Shamona Eaves, has been prolific in her work, and her appointment has allowed us to launch so many extra projects. We launched a specific research webinar series for members; we developed and launched a Research Mentorship Program to support any grassroots clinician/researchers who wanted to know more about research and what it involves so we could support the new wave of clinicians/researchers coming through. We also launched the Osteopathy Australia Research Fund (OARF), a charitable foundation that allows people to make tax-deductible donations to support independent research projects that align with our research priorities.

If that wasn’t enough, the Board allocated $100,000 of member fees for a Targeted Call for Research. Through extensive consultation, we have formulated a research question focused on addressing the needs of osteopaths to bolster their role in the primary healthcare system. This project may not have launched yet, but it’s on its way! This project will not only support the efficacy of osteopathic care but also help show that osteopathy can be part of the solution to some of Australia’s most pressing healthcare challenges. The incredible support from Osteopathy Australia, both financially and through prioritising capacity-building projects, has showcased their wholehearted recognition of the importance of fostering a robust research culture for our profession’s success. My involvement in the Research Committee has been immensely rewarding, and I’m very proud of our accomplishments. Our new chair, Don Hunter, an osteopathic director from Tamworth with firsthand experience achieving his PhD, brings invaluable insights. The committee is in excellent hands, and I can’t wait to see what they do next!

Another great project has been “Osteopathy in WA” – a collective initiative by Perth based clinic owners aiming to attract osteopathic talent from the eastern states, kickstarting osteopath’s careers. Our State Mentorship Program welcomes osteopaths in their first five years from graduation, providing 12 free CPD hours led by Perth-based mentors. We’re so thrilled with the success of this program, over three years, 18 new osteopaths joined the state, boosting our numbers to a strong 72 in WA! If you’re interested in moving to Perth – check outosteopathyinwa.com for more info.

It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m grateful for the trust the membership placed in me to advocate on their behalf. I have learnt a great deal, and working alongside exceptional community leaders – intelligent, passionate and kind – has been inspiring. Our external directors, Kathryn Refshauge, Joey Calandra and Cris Massis, played pivotal roles in shaping our Board, generously sharing their time and expertise. CEO Antony Nicholas has been an amazing leader and is an asset to our profession. Outgoing President Michelle Funder’s leadership has been pivotal in our recent success, and she has been just incredible. Incoming President and Vice President Matt Cooper and Brett Weiner, respectfully, will make a dynamic and purposeful leadership team. Our Board operates under clear guidelines and a positive environment, fostering impactful work. With the new addition of osteopathic directors Tink Gee and Deanne Mitchell and our early careers director Julia Biernacki, our team grows stronger, ensuring Osteopathy Australia’s continued success. Whilst I am sad that I am no longer able to contribute as I have been with such lovely people around me, I am excited to witness Osteopathy Australia’s next chapter!

Thank you to the membership for your trust, I hope the above fills you with confidence on how much is going on behind the scenes! It has been an incredible experience.