Welcome from the Head of School

Professor John Prins

Welcome to the 2021 edition of Chiron

As we are all acutely aware, no corner of the planet has escaped the impact of COVID, and our resolve will continue to be tested for some time yet.

In this light, it has been a privilege to be associated with the Melbourne Medical School with so many alumni, staff, honoraries and students rising to the challenge and doing exceptional work under difficult circumstances. It is also the breadth and depth of this work which is so startling: from the forefront of scientific discovery, to the clinical frontline, to government advisory roles, to community-based vaccination initiatives.

The resilience of our students during the pandemic deserves a mention. We are undeniably pleased to be able to say that our 2021 graduands are preparing to leave us work-ready, having completed all their required competencies.

This is no small feat during a pandemic. It is a testament not only to the students themselves but also our health service partners, who have worked with us to flexibly accommodate rotations during their busiest year in recent history.

The shared recognition by our health service partners, state and federal governments and the wider university sector of the importance of high-quality training and the need for a skilled and highly professional future workforce is much appreciated. Our students are already thinking about their role in the medical profession in the broadest possible context and the pandemic has certainly played its part in this. They continue to look for opportunities at every turn to contribute to the pandemic response, from involvement in fit-testing and innovation in clinical practice to contact tracing and telehealth consultations.

This edition of Chiron highlights some of the world-class work being done by staff and alumni of the Melbourne Medical School, who are tackling complex issues faced by our vulnerable communities. The themes are generosity, preparedness to tackle very difficult problems, and social impact. These are but two of the rising stars you will read about in Chiron:

  • Dr Jess Heerde’s research focuses on youth homelessness. The pandemic has temporarily heightened recognition of the issues surrounding homelessness with a range of social initiatives to address short-term needs of the community. However, long-term strategies and planning are needed to prevent a new wave of youth homelessness in the wake of the pandemic.
  • Dr Anita D’Aprano has designed a culturally appropriate screening tool to assist with developmental assessment of Indigenous children living in remote communities. Early detection of Indigenous children requiring additional learning support will not only enable programs to be more targeted, but will also provide the evidence needed to resource associated education and public health initiatives.

Finally, a brief update on the School itself. Growth and expansion have continued with the addition of two new departments. Although planning was underway for the establishment of the Department of Infectious Diseases and the Department of Critical Care well in advance of the onset of the pandemic, their key roles in the pandemic response have seen them rapidly assume centre stage.

Despite the diversions provided by the pandemic, work has continued apace on the new Doctor of Medicine (MD) which we are primed to launch for our 2022 student intake. Also launching next year is our MD rural pathway in conjunction with La Trobe University, which is featured in this edition.

In closing, I thank you all for your continued interest in and contributions to the Melbourne Medical School. We celebrate your outstanding achievements – particularly over the past twelve months in the face of these extraordinary times.

Professor John Prins 
Head, Melbourne Medical School