Dr Jean Hailes AM

Last updated 05 April 2016

Dr Jean Hailes AMFounded in 1992, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health reflects the enduring legacy that Dr Dorothy Jean Hailes AM made to women’s health. Jean was a passionate, caring Australian General Practitioner (GP).

A visionary in the field of women's health, Jean identified a gap addressing the health needs of menopausal women. In 1971 she established the first women’s health clinic in Australia – one of the inaugural menopause clinics in the world – dedicated to midlife and menopause.

Jean was an advocate at a time when advocacy in this field was unheard of. At the time Jean was practising medicine there was little interest in what doctors saw as ‘minor’ symptoms in middle aged women. Symptoms were swept under the carpet, endured in silence from one generation to the next. Jean worked tirelessly, inspiring and encouraging colleagues, to develop and undertake research in this area and was one of the first Australian GPs to talk openly on radio and to the press about midlife women’s health issues. She had the determination and guts to bring this topic, rarely spoken about, either by women themselves or doctors, out in to the open.

“If a woman is in good health, her family, community and the society around her also benefit.”
Dr Jean Hailes

Jean was determined that women understand their right to know the facts about their health. She encouraged them to speak out and seek answers, know their choices, develop relationships with their doctors and ask for a second opinion if necessary.

Her passion, expertise and determination to make a difference not only shaped positive outcomes during her lifetime, they also inspired and motivated Jean’s colleagues to take up further work in this field and inspired the creation of the Jean Hailes Foundation following her passing in 1988.

The founding board members included Professor Henry Burger, Professor Susan Davis, Dr Elizabeth Farrell, Professor David Healy, Professor Peter Rogers. 

Posthumous award

In 2012 Dr Jean Hailes was recognised by the Victorian Government for her role in improving women’s health in Australia. She was awarded as a recipient of the 2012 Victorian Honour Roll of Women, an award that recognises and celebrates the great achievements of inspirational women in the community.

Mary Wooldridge, Minister for Mental Health, Women’s Affairs and Community Services, presented the award to Jean Hailes Executive Director (and daughter of Jean Hailes) Ms Janet Hailes Michelmore AO.

Ms Wooldridge said that Dr Jean Hailes was a visionary GP “who understood that you need both physical and emotional health in order to stay well and to prevent ill health. Her legacy lives on in the clinical care, innovative research and practical education programs undertaken by Jean Hailes for Women’s Health today.”

Dr Jean Hailes’ achievements:

  • Establishing Australia’s first menopause clinic (1971) at Prince Henry’s hospital and a second at the royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne (1973)
  • Taking the taboo subject of menopause to the public arena
  • Advocacy for treatment options to address the needs of menopausal women
  • Conducting one of the first randomised trials of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and co-authoring several papers in the Medical Journal of Australia (1977)
  • Overseeing the establishment of a bone density measurement service at Prince Henry’s Institute
  • Helping to establish a national conference on menopause, (a forerunner of the Australasian Menopause Society) and funding an annual prize for the best paper given at society meetings
  • Medical officer to the Australian Red Cross Society (Victorian division) blood transfusion service (1962-72)
  • Medical officer to the student health services of Monash University (1972) and the University of Melbourne (1972-75)
  • Appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (1986) for service to medicine particularly in relation to women  (AM QB 1986)

Words of wisdom

In 1980 Jean published a book called The Middle Years. While the subject of her book was about midlife and menopause, and her words were written more than 30 years ago, they are a reflection of the ‘no nonsense attitude and sensibility that Jean practised herself, and her words are as relevant today as when she first wrote them.

  • Know the facts – how it affects your body and emotions and what can be done
  • Keep yourself fit – in order to have a happy and productive life
  • Find a good doctor to talk to – if his or her attitude doesn’t suit you, find one who does
  • Ask for a second opinion – it’s your body and your life

“The words of my mother and her passion for women’s health underpin all we do at Jean Hailes today. Some of my fondest memories of my mother are of her one liners – often said with a laugh or smile but with huge meaning. One was – ‘You have to look after yourself’. It seems like such a simple request but in reality, it’s not always easy to put into practice. The other was ‘When a woman is not fit and healthy, the wheels can fall off’. This was behind her absolute passion for keeping women well – quite often women are the linchpin in families or communities.”

Janet Hailes Michelmore AO
Executive Director, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health

Today, Jean’s pioneering spirit lives on in the philosophy of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health. The organisation is driven by the same passion, vision and enthusiasm shown by Jean herself. Today, Jean Hailes focuses not only on the gap in the menopause field, but on other key women’s health gaps as they emerge and become priorities. We are the ‘go to’ place for information on many aspects of women’s health.

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