Since completing medical training at The University of Western Australia in 1986 and subsequent postgraduate training in Orthopaedics, Graham Forward has worked as an orthopaedic surgeon in Western Australia in both the private and public sectors, including indigenous communities in Broome, Derby and Christmas Island.
In 2004, in response to the emergency medical requirements resulting from the 2004 tsunami, Graham organised a medical team to travel to Somalia, in an effort to aid swift recovery from the natural disaster. On his return to Perth, he established an organisation to help relieve communities in the Horn of Africa from some of their most severe medical and health difficulties through the founding of Australian Doctors For Africa (ADFA).
While the countries in which ADFA works – Somalia, Ethiopia, Comoros Islands and Madagascar – have attempted to improve the delivery of its health care system, there is still a lack of sustained preventive health action. Graham’s vision has been to assist in closing that gap through humanitarian efforts and projects to complement all four countries’ health care plans. Graham has done this through personal and professional investment in recruitment, teaching and training, equipment and organising volunteer medical teams, services and other assistance to these countries.
After 10 years of work, ADFA is flourishing and much of this has to do with Graham’s leadership. It is safe to say that without Graham’s leadership, an organisation like ADFA may not have survived the extremely challenging and volatile political contexts in which it works.
Graham has ensured strong organisational goals have been established. Using a consultative approach, ADFA undertakes surgical procedures, provides new equipment, implements health care strategies and builds capacity through the training of medical staff so that programs become sustainable. ADFA is a not-for-profit community based organisation
During the ADFA journey, Graham has experienced events and developments that have been large, unpredictable and rare – most far outside the realm of expectation for organisations operating in more stable countries. While these events may have derailed a weaker organisation, it is clear under Graham’s leadership, ADFA has succeeded in delivering on its founding vision, that is, ‘working together to improve health.’