Message from the Head of School

Dear Colleagues

Despite serious global troubles it is heartening that the Melbourne Medical School has continued to achieve positive outputs on a number of key fronts. I acknowledge the terrific efforts of all associated with the School for their contribution to these activities especially at a time when there are so many competing priorities, both personal and professional, in our lives.

Since my last editorial I have had occasion to announce the award of a number of significant grants, including our own Strategic Grants for Outstanding Women, as well as recruitment to key roles jointly sponsored by the School and our health service partners. The Doctor of Medicine (MD) course redesign is at an advanced stage and we will shortly commence recruitment of our 2022 MD student cohort. We have also held the second round of the Innovation Acceleration Program in conjunction with Western Health and launched the program at the Royal Melbourne Hospital with planning underway for broader rollout with our other health service partners.

I’m pleased to provide you with the below updates on other key areas which make distinctive contributions to both the School and the medical discipline more broadly.

Department of Rural Health Build Edges Closer to Completion

By now you will all be aware of our partnership with La Trobe University, and the funding we have received from the Federal Government’s Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network to complete a program of work which aims to address chronic shortages of doctors in regional and rural areas by training students from the regions, in the regions.

The good news is that we remain on track for completion of the expansion of our accommodation and teaching facilities at the Melbourne Medical School’s  Shepparton campus in time for the commencement of the 2022 academic year. The below site photographs show the amount of progress that has been made in the short space of time since I last provided an update on this in March after attending the sod-turning. Given the complexities we have had to navigate in 2021, the fact that the project continues to run to schedule is a testament to the skills and diligence of our Project Manager, Mr Darren Grossman, as well as the broader Shepparton team, including local contractors.

North-east view of the two-storey student accommodation

North-west view of the teaching and learning building

I look forward to next providing you with photographs of the completed state-of-the-art facilities over the next few months before you are able in due course to visit these in person.

School Strategic Priority Planning

Further to the previous update on the key themes arising from the School’s annual planning meeting, the School Executive Committee has continued discussions regarding strategic priorities for the 2021-2022 period. After our September meeting I anticipate being able to make the confirmed list of priority areas publicly available on the School website. In the meantime I’d like to share with you the areas (in no particular order) currently under discussion for inclusion:

  • Advance teaching and research partnerships in First Nations health
  • Continue progression of Doctor of Medicine program revitalisation
  • Further develop the Clinician-Scientist career pathway trajectory
  • Strengthen focus on health service program of research
  • Expand program of teaching awards and recognition
  • Increase focus on collaboration and partnership across all School endeavours
  • Expand School equity and diversity initiatives

You will note that work in some of these areas is already well underway as part of the School’s business as usual activities. As a strategic priority the focus will shift to the development of aspects which extend beyond the current day-to-day scope.

Once final these strategic priorities will guide the direction of any discretionary spending available within the School over the next twelve-month period and will be reviewed annually going forward. Your continued involvement across these areas remains crucial to their success and opportunities for involvement in new initiatives will be sought as they become available.

School Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

As part of the discussion around strategic priorities the School has already committed to launching a Diversity and Inclusion Working Group with representation from across all Departments. The Working Group will focus on increasing participation and promoting diversity in gender, cultural heritage and background, sexual orientation, and physical ability across all School strategy and activities. The Working Group recently held its inaugural meeting and Ms Jennifer Warszewski, Senior Manager, People and Culture has been elected Chair. I look forward to providing further information about the Working Group and the activities it will champion on behalf of the School shortly.

Congratulatory Notes

I’d like to extend congratulations on behalf of the School to Associate Professor Natalie Hannan who has received just over $1 million from the ARC Future Fellowships scheme for her research ‘Purinergic signalling in placentation and vascular adaptation in pregnancy’.

Associate Professor Hannan’s work will use sophisticated models to improve the currently outdated and incomplete understanding of signalling pathways crucial to placenta development and reproduction success. Associate Professor Hannan’s work is the first study of its kind and presents huge potential for important reproductive science discoveries.

Natalie is the recipient of one of only three ARC Future Fellowships awarded across the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences in this round which is a remarkable achievement. Natalie will already be known to you all from her role as Associate Dean Diversity and Inclusion which includes the Supporting Women in MDHS (SWiM) program to promote gender equity and academic promotion of women in the Faculty.

As always, I am also very pleased to hear of staff and honoraries who have celebrated grant success on projects administered by other organisations. I extend congratulations on behalf of the School to all those involved in a successful application for funding led by one of our many partner organisations.

Finally, thanks again for your efforts and please ensure you take advantage of the “recharge” days recently announced by the Vice-Chancellor to take a break as soon the opportunity presents.

Best regards

John Prins
Head, Melbourne Medical School