Renowned SBMS anatomist receives OAM

24 Feb 2015

Internationally-recognised University of Queensland anatomist Dr Walter Wood received a 2015 Australia Day Award for his achievements during a 40-year career in anatomy at UQ.

Dr Wood was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) General Division for service to medical education and to the community.

Now retired, Dr Wood said he had received a great deal of satisfaction for many decades from passing on his love of anatomy to students, his greatest achievement being his work with the UQ Medical Anatomy Program, which is part of the School of Biomedical Sciences.

“Anatomy is not just following text book pictures,” Dr Wood said.

“There has been a great deal of pressure, from the 1970s through to the present day, for Australian universities to move away from human body dissection, which I strongly resisted. 

“It’s all very well for students to look at anatomical images in atlases or on computers but it is vitally important that they initially have experience with the dissected body and/or body parts.

“They need to handle the structures and get a true three-dimensional idea of what they are like, as well as developing an appreciation of the breadth of human variation, as every individual body is different.”

In the early 1980s Dr Wood initiated the first micro-computer based self-assessment testing system for medical anatomy students in Australia, and since 1973 he has been closely involved with UQ’s Anatomy Body Donor Program.

“The contribution that donors and their families make to the university is of enormous value and I was honoured to have been the founder and inaugural Chairman of the annual UQ Body Donor Thanksgiving Service in 1992,” Dr Woods said.

“It was one the highlights of my life at the university to have been able to accomplish that, and to receive such positive feedback from relatives and friends of donors.”

Dr Wood’s other achievements during his time at UQ include pioneering forensic anthropology and skeletal identification studies at an undergraduate and postgraduate level.

He has been an honorary consultant to Queensland Health’s Forensic Science Section and the Queensland Police Service in the identification of unknown human skeletal remains.

Dr Wood’s strong sense of community service has continued into retirement and his OAM citation also acknowledges his fundraising efforts through his annual Christmas Lights display at his home in Kenmore.

“My wife and I first won the Best Christmas Lighting Display in the Brisbane Christmas Lights Competition in 1992 and we went on to win the award for 21 consecutive years,” Dr Wood said.

“It’s a great thrill for us both and we have also collected voluntary donations from visitors for the Mater Little Miracles Appeal. We’ve collected more than $73,000 over the years and that stimulates us to continue with our annual display.”

The full citation for Dr Wood’s Medal of the Order of Australia award can be found at the Australia Day Honours List on the Governor General’s website.

The 2015 UQ Body Donor Thanksgiving Service will be held on Thursday 29th October.

Media: Lynda Flower, Biomedical Sciences Marketing & Business Development Manager (Acting), +61 7 3365 1536,