As Perron Institute’s Manager of Clinical Services, Sue Walters achieves a good balance between patient care, management and research. 

After working in a physiotherapy clinic during her high school holidays, Sue decided to follow that career path, completing her physiotherapy degree at Curtin University (Western Australian Institute of Technology) in the early 1980s. 

She worked in the public and private sectors as a practising physiotherapist before joining the Institute (then named the Australian Neuromuscular Research Institute). 

“Working at the Institute has created opportunities far beyond my expectations of making a difference and has given me a rich and varied professional life.” 

In a busy and complex environment, the clinic patients inspire her daily. 

“People living with complex, chronic neurological diseases have many obstacles and challenges to overcome. I admire the depth of human strength I see in our patients and carers. 

“Working at the Institute for over 26 years has enabled me to develop a unique clinical service and a sound clinical trials team providing our patients with research opportunities. 

“In the mid-1990s, when I first programmed a Parkinson’s patient for deep brain stimulation, I witnessed the power of medical research. Parkinsonian symptoms such as dyskinesia (involuntary, erratic movements) ‘disappeared’. I’m proud we’ve been able to offer cutting-edge treatment that has become mainstream Parkinson’s management.   

“Another highlight has been seeing the approved medications for multiple sclerosis grow from one to 14, and in some cases we were actively involved in the clinical trials leading into the listing of these treatments. 

“Our doctors motivate me to keep learning and adapting to changing medical needs and requirements. Their dedication to our patients is inspirational.” 

In the late 1980s, Professor Frank Mastaglia established a Clinical Research Program at the Institute and developed this with Sue and Associate Professor Rick Stell, Consultant Neurologist. 

“Professor Mastaglia gave me the opportunity to become the first Movement Disorder Research Co-ordinator at ANRI, which enabled me to build our service over decades. He taught me the value of listening and being considerate in my decision-making. 

“I also acknowledge Professors Stell and William (Bill) Carroll for their contributions to my career, and Professor Merrilee Needham, who taught me compassion, empathy and resilience. I’m grateful to everyone in the clinic team for their support. 

“My advice to young people and students is to be open to change and accept the challenges that difficult decisions may present. Be compassionate and it’s important, also, to be considerate to yourself. 

“In my own time, I enjoy being with family, reading and gardening. I trained for a half marathon last year and learned that goal setting and intention builds resilience and brings joy on completion!”