If you're ever on the first Monday morning flight out of Brisbane to regional Queensland, then you have probably spotted Marie Burke sitting near you.
Leading Brisbane-based cancer specialist Dr Burke has more than 30 years' experience as a radiation oncologist with special clinical interests in breast, gynaecological and skin cancers.
While based at Wesley Hospital in Brisbane, she has played a pivotal role in bringing critical cancer care services to regional Queensland and is passionate about closing the gap in outcomes for rural cancer patients.
Dr Burke has held several leadership positions at GenesisCare, culminating in her recent appointment as the Chief Medical Officer for GenesisCare Oncology Australia.
During her time at GenesisCare Australia, Dr Burke has served as Doctor Engagement Leader for Oncology Australia, Chair of the Oncology Clinical Leaders Forum, Chair of the Queensland Clinical Management Committee, and Queensland Oncology Medical Director.
Dr Burke has led the reshaping of the Australian Clinical Leaders Forum and supported GenesisCare's doctor group, championing career development and mentoring the next generation of doctors across its network.
As if that's not enough, Dr Burke was honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in recognition of her significant contribution to radiation oncology and breast cancer research in this year's Australia Day Honours.
In addition to caring for her patients and bringing new treatment services to regional Queensland, Dr Burke is a distinguished researcher and has led the way for research into modern radiation therapy techniques for breast cancer in Australia.
"When we first started going out to regional centres in Queensland, I had never seen such advanced cancers," Dr Burke said.
"These were people who, for various reasons, put off any treatment because they didn't want to uproot themselves. And you can understand why because treatment was so far away.
"Cancer itself is awful and the treatment is not always kind. That's why it is important to improve regional access to the best treatment.
"I saw some of the most horrendous cancer in my career and it was a real eye-opener to me.
"Often, when cancer care services started up in regional areas, they were not quite the same as the services offered in cities so people were reluctant there too. Now, it has improved so much and the regional centres offer the best the cities have to offer."
For more than 30 years, Dr Burke and over this time has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to providing high quality personalised holistic care to her patients.
Her research has resulted in the introduction of innovative new breast cancer treatments that have previously not been available in Australia, such as tattoo-free radiation therapy, hypofractionated radiation therapy and Deep Inspiration Breath Hold.
She was essential in launching GenesisCare's radiation therapy centres in Bundaberg, Fraser Coast and Rockhampton and still regularly takes the first plane out of Brisbane on a Monday morning to a regional clinic to see her patients.
During her career, Dr Burke has been involved in National Breast Cancer Guideline development for Cancer Australia, as well as eviQ protocol development in breast cancer. She is also Principal Investigator for the STARS trial and the EXPERT trial at GenesisCare's Wesley centre.
Dr Burke said it was a great honour to receive the OAM, but it was her patients who were most deserving.
"I love what I do, and it is an absolute privilege to be involved in a patient's care, during what is often one of the most challenging times in their lives. A professional highlight has been improving access to high-quality treatment for regional patients, helping them avoid the additional stress of travelling for treatment," she said.
"A cancer journey can be a difficult one to navigate. It is a pleasure and honour to guide my patients along this pathway back to wellness."
One of these patients is breast cancer survivor Elaine Fairweather, 70, of Goondiwindi.
She has been under Dr Burke's care for close to decade, after she was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and faced a recurrence in 2016.
Elaine scheduled her appointments and check-ups the week before Christmas each year so she could gift Dr Burke a Christmas pudding.
"I can't even begin to imagine what my breast cancer experience would be like without Marie, who is not only a brilliant doctor, but also just an exceptional human being," she said.