Professor O'Connell was the first female Urologist in Australia and New Zealand, completing training in Melbourne in 1993 followed by a Fellowship in Female and Functional Urology in Houston, USA in 1994-5. Her doctoral studies in female pelvic anatomy have achieved international renown leading to significant conceptual changes in both medical and lay literature. Her Master of Medicine in Women's health study was Conservative Management of Urge incontinence. Completed in 1989, it has led to several decades of clinical and academic work improving continence care. Her undergraduate training and higher degrees have been obtained at the University of Melbourne where she became Professor in 2013 and Head of Department of Urology and Surgery in 2016.
In 2014 Professor O'Connell became a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, completing its diploma in 2011 whilst a director for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand. In 2019 she led a successful Australian Government bid to establish the Australasian Pelvic Floor Procedure Registry to improve the outcomes associated with mesh SUI and POP implantation and explantation procedures. A collaborative effort with Monash University Registries, the Australian Commission for Quality and Safety in Health Care, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the pilot module will go live in late 2020.