From the Head of School

As we start to see the rates from Melbourne’s second wave of COVID-19 infections take a downward trend, I would like to thank you all for the dedication and tenacity you’ve shown in continuing to stay the course over the past six months. We’ve all faced a range of challenges from disruption to research programs, working and schooling from home, to running radically changed clinical services and academic programs. The School remains very grateful for your continued efforts during these unprecedented times.

Student Surge Workforce
Students across the School, Faculty and University have also been outstanding in their response to the pandemic through contributions to support the COVID-19 surge volunteer workforce. I’d particularly like to acknowledge the efforts of all of our Doctor of Medicine (MD) students, clinical staff and honoraries who have skillfully balanced demand for assistance with clinical placement requirements.

Here are just a few examples from an extensive list. Western Clinical School, under the leadership of the Director of Medical Education, Associate Professor Stephen Lew, has partnered with Western Health to recruit medical student volunteers for respiratory assessment clinics, the emergency department and the dialysis unit. This commenced with MD4 students in March, and then extended to MD3s mid-year and then to MD2s in August/September. Associate Professor Lew reports that many MD4 students who have participated in the volunteer effort now feel much better prepared for the challenges of their upcoming internship.

Similarly, the Austin Clinical School, in conjunction with Austin Health, recruited 40 MD4 students in April to support their screening clinic and call centre. By July, this had expanded to include 37 MD3s, who have been supporting entry checkpoints, a role that interfaces with staff and visitors upon entry to the hospital. Since April, approximately 490 shifts have been covered by MD4s and 220 shifts by MD3s.

You can also read about how students from our Department of Paediatrics are helping to quantify and assess the risk of school-based transmission, in the newsletter’s COVID-19 research wrap-up.

Student Conference Award Finalist
Running an online conference is a learning curve no-one expected this year, but I am pleased to report that our students have embraced the new environment with great flair and enthusiasm. So much so that the MD Student Conference, (MDSCX), is now a national finalist for Best Event of the Year in the Australian Event Awards and Symposium with the winner to be shortly announced on 21 October. I encourage you to take a look at the video wrap-up of this year’s conference highlights. On behalf of the School I congratulate the organising committee on their highly successful adaption to an online format and on their nomination for this important award.

Open Day
I’d like to thank everyone who made Open Day a success this year, despite the unusual circumstances presented by running such a large event entirely online. Under the banner, The Insider Story, the Faculty ran webinars on a wide range of topics such as rural clinical training with our staff in Shepparton; “So, you want to be a doctor?” talks by Professor Steve Trumble and Dr Lisa Cheshire from the Department of Medical Education; Q&As with current students, and graduate study options such as Adolescent Health and Wellbeing.

Professor/Director appointment
I am pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Hang Quach to the position of Professor/Director of Clinical Haematology in the Department of Medicine and Radiology, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

Professor Quach is a clinical and laboratory haematologist and myeloma clinician researcher. She has secured more than $12m in funding towards myeloma research and is currently the coordinating principal investigator of five multicentre national/international investigator-initiated trials in myeloma both in Australia and overseas.

Previously Professor Quach was head of translational research within the myeloma research group at the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases from 2011 to 2012. Over the past seven years Professor Quach has been a key member of the Clinical Haematology team at St Vincent’s, most recently in the role of acting Director whilst holding an honorary Associate Professor appointment in the Melbourne Medical School.

Professor Quach contributes to education activities through supervision of graduate research students and MD research project students, in addition to clinical teaching and mentoring responsibilities. In her teaching role, Professor Quach has been awarded the Stephen Rosen Teacher of the year prize in 2017, 2018 and 2019 through the St Vincent’s Clinical School. She is also a college (RACP and RCPA) supervisor to both basic physicians and advanced haematology trainees.

As part of this appointment Hang has also been promoted to full Professor. Please join me in congratulating Professor Quach on her appointment.

Best regards for the coming months