Inside story of one woman’s drive to crush COVID-19 crisis
SHE'S the calm and measured voice of medical reason to which Queenslanders have been listening these past few turbulent months.
But long before coronavirus hit our shores, Dr Jeannette Young had been championing our state's wellbeing.
Appointed chief health officer in 2005, the quiet achiever has had the ear of four premiers, advising them through several health crises including MERS, swine flu and a dengue outbreak.
So by the time Australia's first case of COVID-19 was recorded on January 25 this year, Dr Young was already hard at work, having called Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk three days earlier warning of a potentially dire outbreak of the deadly virus.
In a sense, the former emergency doctor has had at least 15 years to prepare for what has arguably been her greatest challenge yet.
While Dr Young prefers not to be in the spotlight, her role in handling the pandemic has thrust her into it, and her clear recommendations have been credited with keeping Queensland's case numbers comparatively low.
Within three months of Queensland recording its first case, on January 29, the state had started to flatten the curve.
Dr Young, who holds an Honorary Doctorate from Griffith University for services to public health and the community, says being nominated for The Courier-Mail Queenslander of the Year is humbling.
"I feel very honoured," she says.
"But the true heroes are the team around me and indeed all of Queensland, who should be acknowledged for how responsive and responsible they have been during this pandemic."
Before being appointed to the state's top health advisory job, Dr Young - who began her career in Sydney's Westmead Hospital - was director of medical services at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital and Rockhampton Hospital, for six and four years respectively.
She was hand-picked for her current role at the time the now-infamous Indian-American doctor Jayant Patel was accused of gross negligence while at Bundaberg Base Hospital.
During her tenure as Australia's longest-serving CHO, Dr Young also has distinguished herself by supporting tougher anti-smoking laws, improving childhood immunisation rates through school-based vaccinations, and streamlining patient retrieval so critically ill patients can be safely and swiftly transferred to larger hospitals.
Dr Young's considered management of the COVID-19 pandemic has been hailed as one of the best in the world.
As well as providing ongoing advice to the Government, her experience in crisis management ensured Queensland was as well prepared as possible, including with the stockpile of personal protective equipment to keep health workers safe amid the threat of infection.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has described Dr Young's counsel as crucial to the state's low infection and death rate, while Health Minister Steven Miles says she has worked around the clock to keep people safe.
Originally published as Inside story of one woman's drive to crush COVID-19 crisis