Dr Ray Cook

Dr Raymond Cook, Neurosurgeon

TBCG Chairman since 25th October 2000

Dr Cook’s sub-specialty interests in neurosurgery include surgery for brain tumours, pituitary surgery, hydrocephalus, functional neurosurgery and minimally invasive procedures of the spine.

Dr Cook has been a practising neurosurgeon in Northern Sydney for over 20 years.

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He is currently Head of the Department of Neurosurgery at Royal North Shore Hospital having gained his medical degree at the University of Sydney, graduating with Honours in 1982. His internship and residency was at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Westmead Hospital.

He became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in Neurosurgery in 1992 having trained at Westmead Hospital, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth with Senior Registrar and Fellowship positions at Atkinson’s Morley Hospital in London and the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the US.

Dr Cook is the current chairman of The Brain Cancer Group which is a registered charity dedicated to all aspects including management of the overall care of brain tumours.

Associate Professor

Helen Wheeler,

Medical Oncologist

TBCG Director since 25th October 2000

A/Prof Helen Wheeler is a Medical Oncologist specialising in Primary brain tumours. Dr Wheeler gained her medical degree from the University of Sydney.

After a short stay in the UK, Dr Wheeler returned to Royal North Shore Hospital where she undertook further medical training and laboratory research in the Kolling Institute and eventually took up a position as a consultant Medical Oncologist in 1990.

Dr Wheeler
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Dr Wheeler became interested in primary brain tumours after a group of Neurosurgeons began asking oncologists if they could help in managing their patients with brain tumours. There was little to offer these patients in the early 90’s apart from Surgery and Radiotherapy.

Since the 90’s Dr Wheeler has continued to be involved with both clinical and laboratory research. She has set up numerous collaborations with neuro-oncologists and scientists both nationally and overseas, and works in a multidisciplinary team of clinicians to deliver state of the art therapy to patients.

Dr Wheeler supervises a number of national and international clinical trials run through RNSH. She supervises Medical students, Registrars and a number of laboratory research projects, including those currently in process for brain cancer at the TBCG tumour bank in the Bill Walsh Lab, RNSH.

Dr Wheeler has witnessed the evolution of technology which now allows rapid analysis of tumour genetics, resulting in an explosion in the basic understanding of the underlying abnormalities that contribute to Glioma development and resistance to therapy.

Over the years she has recognised what a struggle it is for both patients and carers to manage with this disease, and how unrecognised their needs are. Dr Wheeler has campaigned for more community services to become available and involved a number of colleagues and health professionals to help with this cause. She realises that unless these barriers can be overcome, patient participation in clinical trials – which will ultimately lead to treatment breakthroughs – can be almost impossible, slowing progress enormously.

John Ballard

John Ballard, Business person and community representative

TBCG Director since 19th July 2006

John Ballard has extensive experience across a wide range of industries as both a senior executive and a Non-Executive Director.

He was previously Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Southcorp Limited, Managing Director Asia Pacific, United Biscuits Limited.

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He was also Managing Director Snack Foods, Coca-Cola Amatil Limited, a Director of Woolworths Limited and Email Limited, Chairman of Wattyl Limited, a Director of CSR Limited and subsequently Rinker Limited and a Trustee of the Sydney Opera House Trust.

He is currently the Chairman of Elders Limited, a Director of Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited, a Director of Magellan Flagship Fund Limited, a Director of International Ferro Metals Limited, Chairman of the Advisory Funds at Pacific Equity Partners and a Director of The Brain Cancer Group.

John is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and holds an MBA from Columbia University, New York, with a dual major in Marketing and International Business. He graduated Beta Gamma Sigma.

Associate Professor

Michael Back,

Radiation Oncologist

TBCG Director since 9th February 2010

A/Prof Michael Back is Director of Radiation Oncology for the Northern Sydney Cancer Centre at RNSH.

He subspecialises in Neuro-oncology with clinical and research interests in improving the outcome of patients managed for brain cancer through sophisticated tumour targeting and radiation therapy delivery.

Michael Back
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The aim of the research programme is to develop treatment protocols that can optimise the amount of radiation delivered to a brain tumour, whilst protecting the surrounding normal brain tissue. The benefits of this research is directly translated to the patients managed in daily practice in Northern Sydney.

He is also a visiting consultant in radiation oncology at the Central Coast Cancer Centre and for GenesisCare Private Centres across Sydney. Prior to commencing his practice at RNSH he was a specialist radiation oncologist in Singapore (2001-2007) and Newcastle NSW (1996-2000). At both of these prior specialty positions he was integral in establishing a structured approach to brain tumour management, especially during his time in Singapore where he was appointed as an Honorary Consultant for Neurosurgery at the National Neuroscience Institute.

A/Prof Back has been a Board Director of TBCG since 2009 and Cancer Council NSW (2011-2014). He sees TBCG as playing an integral role in co-ordinating research for brain tumours that occur in Northern Sydney, and subsequently making an impact through leadership and implementation of research breakthroughs across Australasia.
A/Prof Michael Back

Suzane Peponis-Brisimis

Suzane Peponis-Brisimis, Business person and community representative

TBCG Director since 23rd February 2016

Suzane co-founded and remains an active company director in private business involved in property ownership and development both domestically and overseas.

Suzane has most recently spent time fund raising for various worthy causes, most notably TBCG.

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Following the passing of her mother, who succumbed to a Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) and was treated by the TBCG team, she founded the White Pearl Fundraiser specifically for the purpose of raising awareness and funds for TBCG’ s brain tumour research programme.

Dr Jonathon Parkinson, Neurosurgeon 

TBCG Director since 22nd September 2017

Dr Jonathon Parkinson graduated from medicine at the University of Sydney in 1998.

He undertook his advanced neurosurgical training at Royal North Shore Hospital, John Hunter Hospital, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

Suzane Peponis-Brisimis
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During his specialist training, Dr Parkinson completed a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at the Kolling Institute of Medical Research, University of Sydney where he studied the molecular biology of brain tumours. As well as his surgical work, Dr Parkinson is continuing his brain tumour research.

On completion of his specialist training Dr Parkinson studied further at the University of Calgary, Canada, where he completed a clinical fellowship with the world-renowned University of Calgary Spine Program. He further developed his expertise in minimally invasive (‘keyhole’) spine surgery, surgery for degenerative spine conditions (including sciatica, radiculopathy, canal stenosis and spondylolisthesis) and treatment of metastatic disease to the spine.

Further to his research interest in brain tumours, Dr Parkinson continues to develop his interest in their clinical management. He is the current co-chair of the NSW Oncology Group (Neuro-oncology) as well as being on the management committee of the Australasian Neuro-oncology group, COGNO (Co-operative Trials Group for Neuro-oncology). Dr Parkinson is an important member of the multi-disciplinary team managing brain tumours across both the North Shore campus and on the Central Coast.

Dr Parkinson’s other interest is in surgical education. He is the current Surgical Supervisor of Training (in Neurosurgery) at Royal North Shore and North Shore Hospitals. He is also a Conjoint Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney, a part of the newly formed Surgical Education, Research and Training (SERT) Institute at Royal North Shore Hospital.

Dr Parkinson’s surgical interests include brain tumour surgery, skull base surgery and spine surgery of all types. He is a VMO in Neurosurgery at Royal North Shore Hospital, North Shore Private Hospital, Gosford Private Hospital and Sydney Adventist Hospital.

Outside of work Dr Parkinson enjoys spending time with his young family, golf and basketball.

John Ballard

Richard Ryan, CEO North Shore Private Hospital, Ramsay Health

TBCG Director since 26th October 2017

Richard has over 20 years’ experience in the healthcare industry having worked in both public and private hospitals. Commencing his career as a Registered Nurse in the field of cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery.

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Richard joined North Shore Private Hospital in April 2005 as Nursing Unit Manager of Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Ward and Assistant Director of Clinical Services before moving to Kareena Private Hospital and more recently St George Private Hospital as the Director of Clinical Services.

Richard was also responsible for the clinical services bid for Northern Beaches Private Hospital. He returned to North Shore Private Hospital in April 2015 as the Deputy Chief Executive Officer and was appointed to the position of Chief Executive Officer in April 2016.

Tracey O’Donoghue, Accountant

TBCG Director / Company Secretary since 4th March 2019

Tracey has over 30 years’ experience as a Chartered Accountant and joined the group in 2009. She has acted as the Accountant for The Brain Cancer Group in a voluntary capacity since joining and oversees all financial management.

John Ballard

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