Dr Sophia Otto: Get to know our new Clinical Service Director

25 May 2022

Dr Sophia Otto is SA Pathology’s new Clinical Service Director, but her journey to the role has been anything but straightforward.

Sophia’s parents immigrated from Greece to Pt Lincoln. They were passionate about providing a great life for themselves, Sophia and her two siblings.

Her parents worked tirelessly within the local tuna factory and down on the wharf for a number of years. They even owned a piggery and built a couple of houses in Port Lincoln before moving to Melbourne to be with family.

 Shortly after, they decided to settle for good in Adelaide. 

“I attended nine different primary schools and then was educated at Underdale High School. I was one of the first from there (to the best of my knowledge) to get into a medicine undergraduate degree and certainly one of only a few people that got into University.” 

 Sophia consistently challenged herself throughout her career, working as a General Practitioner before changing her career pathway in her early forties to try something new - Anatomical Pathology.

“I do remember the day I interviewed for a training position. My competition was two young men. There was only one position, and they were in their suits, and I was this middle-aged woman from general practice, and they appointed me! Much to my great surprise and relief...”

In 2007, after a five-year training program, Sophia attained her fellowship and broke boundaries as one of the oldest fellows in the country. Shortly after, she was offered a position at SA Pathology (IMVS at the time).

“In 2014, I was appointed as Head of Anatomical Pathology at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Subsequently, I was closely involved in the move to the new site, and the relocation of the Anatomical Pathology service there.”

Since then, Sophia has taken up many roles, such as CALHN Site Clinical Director, and has served both as State Councillor and as a board member of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia.

So, what attracted Sophia to her current role as Clinical Service Director?

“Part of it is leadership and part of it is that I’m very much a people person. I like to engage with the staff. I really enjoy people, and I try to be respectful and kind - I certainly remind myself to be kind and grateful every day. I like to trouble-shoot, and am good at seeking counsel and at taking advice.”

 Sophia also believes her age benefits the role as she does not have a personal agenda. She is an advocate for the current model of leadership within SA Pathology and likes the balance of medical and non-medical management skillsets. She hopes to bring kindness and accountability to her leadership.

“I have a real desire to serve our staff, this organisation, and our population. Truly that’s what I want to do.”

Sophia’s relationship with the previous Clinical Service Director, Associate Professor Tom Dodd, is something she values, and she counts him as a friend. But although they both share their experience in Anatomical Pathology, she recognises that they are two very different people who faced two very different sets of challenges, meaning their approaches will differ.

“I think we’ve performed admirably during the pandemic. We comprise 85% of the pathology service in this state, and we have demonstrated in our response to COVID that we are a very capable and professional organisation. Our response to the pandemic, I feel, has been remarkable and I’m very proud to be a part of this organisation.”

Congratulations on your appointment Sophia! We cannot wait to see what you achieve.

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