26 September 2023

Under Her Skin

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Sue Williams, Allen & Unwin, $34.99.

It really is amazing: the biography of Professor Fiona Wood, world-leading burns surgeon and former Australian of the Year, is the awe-inspiring story of an extraordinary life.

She became a household name following the Bali bombings in 2002. A pioneer in the field of burns and reconstructive surgery, Fiona made world headlines with the use of her groundbreaking invention of ‘spray-on skin’ to help minimise her patients’ terrible scarring. When three bombs tore out the heart of Bali and destroyed so many Australian lives, Professor Wood and her team were there to help.

Under Her Skin tells of the exceptional ‘life and work of Professor Fiona Wood, AM, National Living Treasure’. Against all the odds, Fiona, the daughter of a fifth-generation coalminer in the north of England, became one of Australia’s most innovative, respected and dedicated surgeons and researchers.

Professor Wood talks candidly of the moving valour of her burns patients, and the heartbreak, triumph, tears and controversies that have stalked her stellar career. Astonishingly, she has achieved all of this while raising six children.

It’s obvious from the first page of this memoir why Fiona was so resolute when it came to ambition, willpower and drive. Her determination to be successful is apparent because she grew up in the ‘shadow of dread’. As well, it was what her father said: “If we don’t dream, we’ll never know what’s possible.” That was Fiona’s Dad’s most fervent passion in life, and one that was to become a central tenant of Fiona’s life.

“Never settle for second best” was one of the daily lessons drummed into the four Wood children, and Fiona took each and every one of them to heart. As Fiona had learnt from her Mum and Dad, there was no point getting up in the morning just to be average. “That’s a waste of energy. It’s always about being the best you can be; not being satisfied with second place.” She made sure she was ready to seize every single opportunity that came her way.

Best-selling author and award-winning journalist ― Sue Williams ― delivers a fervently candid, unambiguous account of all aspects of Fiona Wood’s exceptional life.

When and why did world-leading burns specialist Professor Fiona Wood become a household name? If the answer is correct, you could win two copies of Under Her Skin. Entries should be sent to [email protected] by Monday, 7 November 2022. Names of the winners will be announced in Frank Cassidy’s PS-sssst…! column on 8 November 2022.

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