Steps for the future

The RCH Orthopaedics Department is one of the busiest areas of the hospital. Featuring a dedicated team of clinicians, nurse specialists and physiotherapists, the department looks after children with musculoskeletal conditions, that range from those that arise suddenly such as fractures, to conditions associated with living with disability and pain.

Thanks to the generous bequest from Phyllis and Syd Bellion, the Orthopaedics Department now includes a new specialised Orthopaedic Surgeon, to advance the care it provides to children in need. This unique gift was over 70 years in the making. Phyllis’ mother Jessie Hopkins advised Phyllis in the 1940’s that she eventually wanted the family home in Footscray to support the hospital’s Orthopaedic Department.

Phyllis and Syd honoured her mother’s wish, with the property coming to the hospital after Phyllis’ lifetime and Syd’s life tenancy. Thanks to this long planned gift, the RCH now has a new Oncology and Limb Reconstructive Surgeon. The two subspecialties are cornerstone services that are not only key to orthopaedics but also to multiple other departments including oncology, plastics, genetics, pathology and radiology. Dr Stewart Morrison took up this new position in June 2020.

“This amazing gift has allowed us to support and bring in local graduate, Dr Stewart Morrison who was identified as being an outstanding talent. He has already made an impact,” said Associate Professor Leo Donnan, Orthopaedic Surgeon.

Significantly, the Orthopaedics Department were not only able to employ a new surgeon within the department, but have a two year transition period which means senior staff are able to mentor the surgeon appointed into the new role.

“Too often due to funding constraints, a more senior clinician has to retire before a new member can join the team. This means that a lot of the knowledge walks out the door. However, thanks to this gift, we have been able to nurture and mentor Stewart into this surgical position.”

“This incredible gift has allowed us to capture local talent; someone who we know will make a major contribution to clinical care, research and advancing the department,” said Leo.

Stewart initially came to the RCH as a trainee doctor before completing his fellowship training in the USA. Whilst at the RCH he was identified as someone who had ‘outstanding knowledge, enthusiasm, compassion and technical expertise’. Since returning to RCH, Stewart has been reunited with several children and adolescents that he treated before he left for the USA in 2018.

“We have the privilege and challenge of supporting these children and families though chemotherapy, eight hour surgeries, and some of the darkest moments of their lives. Two years later, to see them back in the clinic – now reporting issues like ‘a knee that clicks’ or ‘wanting to discuss leg lengthening’ because it is interfering with their surfing; it is amazing how far these kids can come in just two years,” said Stewart.

A unique component of Dr Morrison’s role at the RCH is that he operates on a fortnightly basis with Dr Mark O’Sullivan who is one of the department’s senior musculoskeletal tumour surgeons.

“Similar to the mode of practice adopted by the spine teams – where two consultant surgeons are assigned to the operating lists – having two surgeons working together on cases allows for sharing of knowledge, division of workload, and ultimately more collaborative and finely tuned operations,” said Mark.

“This arrangement would not have been possible without the financial support provided by Phyllis and Syd Bellion. Over the next few years this arrangement will unequivocally enhance the already world class care afforded to musculoskeletal tumour patients at the RCH,” said Stewart.