Message from Geoff McColl, Head of Melbourne Medical School

Welcome to the first Melbourne Medical School Newsletter for 2016.  The year is now well advanced with all of our teaching programs underway and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) and Australian Research Council (ARC) grant round submissions completed.  This year will be an important year of consolidation for our new governance structure and further exploration of our budget in the light of constant changes in the funding environment.  The sudden withdrawal of the Health Workforce Australia (HWA) Clinical Training Fund (CTF) prior to Christmas is a particular issue for the School. Clearly an examination of optimal funding as well as our expenditure will be necessary to approach a balanced budget over the next few years.

These operational matters are important but we must continue to focus on strengthening our activities in learning and teaching, research and engagement in alignment with our mission and values.

The imminent opening of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) building is an example of an extraordinary opportunity. As many of you are aware we were delighted to welcome Professor Sean Grimmond to the University and the Medical School this year.  Sean has an international reputation in medical genomics with work that has focused on uncovering the underlying genetics controlling key biological processes (organogenesis and pluripotency) and pathological states (tissue repair and cancer) through pioneering efforts in genomics and transcriptomics.  Sean will lead the Cancer Research Strategy for the Faculty and University from his position in the Melbourne Medical School.

Another opportunity for the School is in Critical Care Medicine (CCM).  CCM brings together Emergency Medicine, Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine into a cognate discipline.  The first steps to establish a Centre for Critical Care Medicine are underway led by Professors David Story, Rinaldo Bellomo and George Braitberg.  I will keep you posted about developments in this area.

The School has also recently welcomed two new senior academics to our ranks who will also serve to advance our research, teaching and engagement agenda.  Professor Gustavo Duque was appointed as Chair of Medicine at the Western Hospital late last year.  Gustavo is a geriatrician and bone biologist with a research interest in the mechanisms of age-related bone loss, osteoporosis and frailty in older persons. Gustavo has also been appointed the Director of the Australian Institute of Musculoskeletal Science a partnership between the Western Hospital, Victoria University and the University of Melbourne. Professor Andrea Maier commenced earlier this year as Professor of Medicine and Aged Care and Divisional Director of Medicine and Community Care at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.  Andrea has focused on sarcopenia, mobility and the biology of aging in her research work. It is envisaged that Gustavo and Andrea will add substantially to our program of work on Aging in the School and beyond.

At the end of 2015 the new MD program graduated its second cohort of students.  In 2016 the Australian Medical Council will closely scrutinize our five year progress report which is an important milestone.  The MD program has implemented many innovative elements since its inception in 2011 including the scholarly selective subjects, the student conference, clinical skills coaches and a sophisticated transition to practice subject.  This innovation as well as substantial progress in the assessment or our students has been recognised by the Australian Medical Council (AMC) and by our colleagues at other Universities locally an internationally.  The next five years of the MD will be characterised by optimisation via multi-dimensional evaluation and action aligned to our graduate attributes, mission and values.

Above is a brief snapshot of some of the recent activity in the School.  I never cease to be amazed by the energy and passion of our academic and professional staff in advancing our role in improving the health of the communities we serve.

Geoff McColl