Wylie Collins CPA wanted to donate money to support the Women and Infants Research Foundation’s work with premature babies, but they asked for something even more valuable – his business skills.
By Carolin Lenehan
In 2010, Wylie Collins’ daughter Clare was born 14 weeks premature and weighing just 875g. She was given a 60 per cent chance of survival and there was a 90 per cent likelihood of physical or mental disability.
During the next three months, there were several touch-and-go moments as the dedicated team at Perth’s King Edward Memorial Hospital fought to keep tiny Clare alive.
It was an extremely stressful experience for the family, but through it Clare’s father learned about the Women and Infants Research Foundation (WIRF). He saw first-hand how research undertaken by the group was being used to improve outcomes for babies and their mothers.
“Imagine if we could halve the number of premature births not only in Australia but the world.”
Preterm birth is the leading cause of death and disability in children aged under five in developed countries. In Western Australia alone, almost 3000 babies are born premature each year.
Any breakthrough that allows health practitioners to extend a developing baby’s time in the womb – even by a week – will save countless lives, prevent lifelong disabilities, and deliver significant savings to national health systems.
Collins considers his family one of the fortunate ones. His daughter survived and is now seven years old.
“We were incredibly lucky to have the chance to take Clare home,” Collins says. “She has some developmental delays and still faces many challenges, but she continues to amaze me every day.
“I wanted to make a difference to others who may go through the same journey. Initially I made donations to the foundation, but as the relationship developed, the chair of the WIRF board asked me to join the board.”
Collins has found the insights that he’s gained from his voluntary work as WIRF’s treasurer, as well as from leading a strategic review of its operations and performance, have enhanced his role as head of strategic projects at BHP. In return, he has brought his business focus to the foundation, helping to build its commercial acumen.
“Researchers have a unique perspective. They work to extend the body of knowledge, which may lead to the next researcher having a breakthrough,” he says.
Applied in the corporate world, this sort of perspective could be transformational.
“Too often, organisations rework the same problem with very little long-term improvement,” he says.
“As financial professionals and business leaders, CPAs should be thinking about the why – delivering a business impact that sticks and leaving a legacy for those who follow.”
He believes it’s important for CPAs to share their skills and insights. “Getting involved, and applying our unique business lens to these organisations [like WIRF], we can help them to reach their full potential. We can help them change the world.”
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Women and Infants Research Foundation
For 40 years, the Women and Infants Research Foundation (WIRF) has contributed to scientific discoveries and improvements in clinical practices. In the first year of its WA Preterm Birth Initiative, launched in late 2014, Western Australia’s rate of preterm births fell by 8 per cent.
“Imagine if we could halve the number of premature births not only in WA and Australia but the world,”says Wylie Collins.
“The impact that would have on the call on taxpayer funds for acute care at birth (A$216,000 for the smallest babies) and ongoing interventions required to help with developmental delays is enormous.”
Volunteering to save the lives of mothers and babies in Tanzania