A passionate hand therapist, teacher and philanthropist for over 36 years.
Suzanne Caragianis graduated in 1985 with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Occupational Therapy from University of South Australia, with a keen interest in treating hand injuries and burns. Her goal was to establish a Centre of excellence where people with hand and arm injuries could get the best possible care. After completing further studies in the USA and working alongside her mentor and forefather of hand surgery, Dr Harold Kleinert, Suzanne qualified as a Certified Hand Therapist – one of the first in Australia.
Before returning to Australia, Suzanne also worked with another eminent hand surgeon, Dr G. Segmuller in Switzerland. In November 1991, Suzanne established SA Hand Therapy, which was 30 years old in November 2021. It remains one of the leading hand therapy clinics in Australia with 5 hand clinics. During her time at SA Hand Therapy, Suzanne trained and mentored over 50 hand therapists and over 100 occupational and physiotherapy students.
As part of her ongoing commitment to maintaining best practice and evidence-based treatment Suzanne has completed more than 77 specialist courses in Australia and around the world. Suzanne has a passion for teaching and contributing to her profession both nationally and internationally. Suzanne has presented over 50 major talks in her career to date with highlights including:
- Keynote speaker at the New Zealand Hand Therapy Conference.
- Invited speaker at several International Hand Therapy Congresses in Vancouver, Canada, Istanbul, Turkey, Buenos Aires and Argentina.
- Invited speaker at several of the Indian Hand Surgery conference meetings and Indian Society of Peripheral Nerve Surgery congress.
- Invited speaker Asian Pacific Federation of Societies of Hand Therapists.
- Invited speaker at many national conferences and courses in Australia including; Sports Medicine Association Conference, National Physicians Conference, National Musculoskeletal Medicine Conference, Dental Hygienist Conference and GP courses
Suzanne’s teaching for over a decade in India alongside her esteemed colleague, Dr Raja Sabapathy (Hand and Microsurgeon), lead to her desire to develop hand surgery and hand therapy in the Kingdom of Bhutan – India’s neighbour in the north. Suzanne undertook her first teaching course alongside her colleague and Dr Philip Griffin (Plastic Surgeon) in 2010. She went on to develop a charity ‘Helping Hands In Bhutan’ under the Southern Adelaide Health Institute Inc. – Bhutan Fund – a charity established by Professor Jegan Krishnan to promote teaching. Suzanne has now raised over $250,000, which has been used to establish hand therapy clinics in Bhutan, purchase hand surgery equipment, train surgeons and physiotherapists, and provide medical supplies to the hand therapy clinics and patients. Rotary Club of Kidman Park, Rotary Club of Clare and especially The Lions Club of Richmond, have provided great support.
Suzanne and Dr Griffin approached Interplast Australia and New Zealand; an amazing NGO that’s well established in the Asian Pacific Region to run the program in Bhutan, which has vastly extended the program’s success and capacity. Suzanne continues to run ‘Helping Hands in Bhutan’ to raise funds for patient equipment, burns garments and training for the dedicated team of therapists in Bhutan.
On the King’s birthday (12th June 2023), Suzanne was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to Occupational Therapy by the Governor-General in his role as Chancellor of the Order of Australia. Suzanne has also been awarded Life membership to the Australian Hand Therapy Association in recognition for her service, dedication and contribution to hand therapy in Australia and throughout the world, as well as being awarded the Founders Lecture for Contributions for Service to the Profession both nationally and internationally in October 2017. A keen interest in research, Suzanne has also published in peer review journals in areas of chronic pain, tendinopathy and occupational injury and risk in hand therapy profession.
Training hundreds of occupational therapy students and junior therapists from the University of South Australia for over 26 years, Suzanne sees her role as a mentor critical for the development of the profession and new graduates. Whilst increasing her teaching and mentoring role as an Adjunct Clinical Lecturer with the University of South Australia and as the South Australian Mentor for the Australian Hand Therapy Association, Suzanne has established Coastal Hand Therapy; inspired by the sea views and the desire to continue her dedicated service to her patients with hand and upper limb issues.