Colleen McGann was just 15 years old when she left school with dreams of becoming a teacher.
She didn't realise at the time it was health that would prove to be her true calling.
It was by chance and some good timing that she landed a job with St.LukesHealth in 1962, during somewhat of a gap year between studies.
More than five decades later she would retire from her role as managing director, having worked her way through the ranks in an industry largely dominated by men.
Her years of service to community health in Tasmania has today earned her an Order of Australia Medal.
"I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised," she said.
"But also very humble. I know a lot of people say that, but you do what you do because you like it and you enjoy it. I had 52 years in health so I must have enjoyed it.
"So I am very grateful and honoured, but it's not just about me. It's about those who helped me do it and to achieve what I achieved."
The youngest of six children, Ms McGann said she came from a family of hard workers. However, she said it was a manager at St.Lukes early on in her career who helped pave the way for her.
"I was lucky a general manager came in and he was a breath of fresh air in those days, because he believed a female and a male were equal," she said.
"If anyone wanted to do any further studies or advance in the company, it didn't matter if you were male or female, you had the opportunity. Even when I retired, there were still a lot people who thought 'you're only a female, what would you know'."
Through her role as St.Lukes' managing director, Ms McGann said she always tried to lead by example. Her leadership skills also saw her recognised as the Tasmanian Business Woman of the Year in 2000.
"What helped me achieve ... I never had staff work for me - they always worked with me," she said.
"I think when you make them part of the organisation and part of the way forward, it gives them a lot more satisfaction and they feel they are really part of achieving something.
"That was one of the things I was able to do with staff."
Today Ms McGann remains a fierce advocate for equitable healthcare.
She has also found satisfaction through the Launceston Rotary Club, where she is in her second term as president.
"I have been a part of Rotary for more than 25 years," she said.
"But particularly the past few months with COVID, it has been very fulfilling to be able to help where we can in the community.
"Because health is not cheap, but everyone is entitled to good health and more importantly, good health care."
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