A/Prof Christine Grace Trevella Tippett
Specialising in high-risk obstetrics for 35 years, A/Prof Christine Tippett made an outstanding contribution to women’s healthcare in Victoria, Australia and internationally.
Chris delivered more than 10,000 babies throughout her career and was instrumental in advocating for change in both obstetrics and gynaecology, helping to create a safer environment for women and specifically for both mothers and their babies.
After completing her medical degree, Chris spent two years in general hospital jobs and then took time away from medicine to have her children. She then commenced specialist training at Queen Victoria Medical Centre (QVMC) in Melbourne and met people both supportive and hostile to a woman with three children being appointed to a training position. Chris completed her training in Manchester, before returning to QVMCas a senior registrar (SR)and then becoming a consultant there. It was while she was a SR that I first met Chris – her dedication to the women she cared for stood out for me as well as her outstanding clinical acumen and eye for detail.
Chris’s career continued as a consultant at QVMC and then at Monash Medical Centre (MMC), and at this time, she also began an incredibly successful private practice initially in East Melbourne and then in Clayton.
Driven by her commitment to ensure that women from all backgrounds have access to the best possible care, in the 1990s Chris established the Monash Medical Centre Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit, (MFMU) offering care to women with some of the most complex pregnancies in Victoria. At that time, Monash was the only hospital in Victoria with an adult and neonatal intensive care unit together with an adult coronary care unit-hence, the ability to care for such high-risk women.
Chris’s achievements, which have been recognised locally and internationally, commenced with her being awarded the Gold Medal for outstanding performance in the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists membership exams in 1984, the highest examination accolade to be given by the College.
After the MFMU was embedded and up and running, she became more involved with the activities of RANZCOG, initially through the VRC and then being elected to the RANZCOG council as one of three Victorian representatives, culminating in 2006 in her becoming the first female president of the College.
During her tenure as President of RANZCOG, there were many highlights and achievements, but I would like to mention two of special note.
The first was Chris becoming the lead of the expert panel during Victoria’s abortion law debate. As has been written on the Victorian Government website, ‘Chris was unwavering in her counsel to ensure that women retained their ability to have a choice, and for doctors to be able to provide women access to an abortion without fear of retribution’.
My memory at that time is of her spending many an hour explaining to politicians on both sides of parliament what the change would bring from a practical perspective, and the sheer joy that she shared with many when the Act was altered and passed.
The second highlight involved Indigenous women’s health – in continuing Chris’s commitment to improving the health of all women, she organised the inaugural conference for Indigenous maternity care providers, under the RANZCOG banner. This occurred in the Northern Territory and was followed by the formation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Women’s Health Committee – a committee which submits recommendations directly to the RANZCOG Council and Board. Chris was especially pleased to learn that on the next Council of RANZCOG, there would be a representative from this group on Council.
To me, both these amazing achievements highlight how she continued championing change for all women.
In 2010, she was deservedly appointed a Member of the Order of Australia, an award which recognised her service to obstetrics and to the women of Australia, an award which she was extremely proud to receive.
Chris’s energies then turned to FIGO where she was initially elected as the Australian and New Zealand representative, a role endorsed by RANZCOG. Again, through her ongoing commitment to improve the healthcare of women everywhere, in 2018 at the FIGO congress in Rio, she, together with her FIGO colleagues Lesley Regan and Jeanne Conroy, were nominated and were successful in becoming the first trio of female leaders of FIGO, with Chris being elected as treasurer, a role she reluctantly relinquished 12 months ago due to her recurring illness.
Her clinical role and acumen cannot be overstated. Chris had an ability to ‘just be there’ helping countless colleagues, junior and senior. She seemed to appear at the right moment and was always the voice of reason when discussing outcomes.
She was also there to celebrate the personal milestones and professional achievements of her many colleagues, marking those achievements in her own way.
Her leadership, wisdom, clinical expertise and advocacy for women from all parts of the globe and from all walks of life will be greatly missed by past, present and future generations of obstetricians