Message from the Head of School

Dear Colleagues,

It has been wonderful to see many of you back on campus as well as out and about at our various partner health services over the past few weeks.

Doctor of Medicine Redesign Goes Live

The Melbourne Medical School (MMS) is a hive of activity with the commencement of the new Doctor of Medicine cohort who are undertaking the redesigned MD1 curriculum.  MMS staff have held individual course advice meetings with each incoming student during January and February.  These have indicated that students are putting considerable thought into the choices they are making for their Discovery options. Some are showing interest in following distinctly vocational threads throughout the course, although most remain open-minded about their eventual specialty and have indicated that they are planning to sample the available offerings widely to aid their decision.  Students also continue to display a strong level of commitment to developing their research skills, which is seen as one of the main differentiators for choosing to study the Melbourne MD. The online learning design that sits at the heart of each week’s learning has been well received and the first of the seven custom designed Discovery options have begun delivery. I encourage you to consider submitting an expression of interest to the Department of Medical Education team if you have an idea you’d like to develop into a Discovery topic for delivery in 2023. I extend thanks on behalf of MMS for the incredible team effort led by Professor Steve Trumble to ensure the curriculum was ready for delivery by the start of the semester. Congratulations are also due to the Department of Rural Health on being ready to receive the 30 MD Rural pathway students who started on 31 January 2022. The MMS’s continued success in implementing this pathway is well recognised by government and there is significant interest in ensuring that the pathway connects well with our involvement in regional prevocational and vocational training for rural careers.

Announcing New Innovation Acceleration Program Projects

I am pleased to report that the Innovation Acceleration Program initiated in partnership with Western Health (WH) continues to thrive. Members of the following four projects awarded funding in the most recent Western Health round will spend the next 12 months working on a varied range of clinical challenges:

1. Fall Prevention: Inpatient falls are dangerous for patients and cause significant distress to healthcare workers responsible for preventing them. There is nothing commercially available that meets the needs of healthcare workers to effectively monitor falls. (Investigators: Rebecca Woltsche (WH), Helen Sinnott (WH), Lihai Zhang (UoM), Simon Hall (UoM))

2. Avoiding Wasteful Gowns: Existing methods for preventing staff infection at hospitals rely heavily on single-use PPE equipment, particularly gowns. There are currently no alternative safe, effective, re-usable gowns available on the market. (Investigators: Forbes McGain (WH), David Collins (UoM), Jo Stains (UoM), Max Rounds (UoM))

3. Feeding Intensive Care Babies: Existing protocols for feeding babies are laborious, with nurses required to stand next to the baby and wait significant amounts of time for liquid food to drain into the infant’s stomach via syringe at gravity pressure.(Investigators:Jessica Huynh (WH), Grand Skidmore (UoM))

4. Hospital Workstations of the Future: Existing hospital workstations are cumbersome for ward rounds, inconveniently over rely on battery recharge stations and present an injury risk due to their bulky nature. (Investigators: Ali Baker (WH), Katja Holtta-Otto (UoM))

Three new ventures have also been funded in the first Innovation Acceleration Program round held by The Royal Melbourne Hospital:

1. Vitesse3D: This team plans to leverage rapid 3D printing technology enabling rapid in-house prototyping for accurate and efficient pre-surgical planning. (Investigators: Emmanuelle Koehl (RMH), David Collins (UoM), Anand Ramakrishnan (RMH), Peter Lee (UoM))

2. Real-time Electronic Glucose Alert System: A digital health technology consisting of a real-time glucose alert system (REGAS) software that brings together evidence-based proactive identification, real-time alerts, decision-support, and analytics will be developed. (Investigators: Spiros Fourlanos (RMH/UoM), Rahul Barmanray (RMH), Mervyn Kyi (RMH/UoM) with support from The Centre for Digital Transformation of Health (UoM))

3. Stroke Rapid Diagnostic Test: The project team plans to further develop their point-of-care rapid diagnostic technology which will enable the treating paramedic or clinician to be confident in the cause of the stroke and rapidly administer treatment, significantly reducing the likelihood of severe disability or death for the patient. (Investigators: Bernard Yan (RMH), Stan Skafidas (UoM))

The Royal Melbourne Hospital has committed to running another Innovation Acceleration Program round in mid-2022. Key dates will be advertised closer to the time. I am also pleased to announce that St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne will be launching their inaugural round later this year and that discussions with Austin Health and Northern Health are also progressing. I encourage you to consider participating to develop solutions to important clinical unmet needs identified by our health service partners.

Innovation Acceleration Program Impact in Action

Evidence of further success of the Innovation Acceleration Program has been demonstrated by one of the original projects, ReResp, a collaboration between Western Health clinicians and University of Melbourne engineers. The program supported the development of a 3D-printed prototype mask which was well received in a small pilot at Western Health. The team have now raised additional funds and are working with an independent Product Design Agency to optimise the prototype design, consider the manufacturing and regulatory pathways as the next step in commercialisation and creating a product ready for market.

Melbourne Academic Centre for Health (MACH) Track Recipients

Congratulations are due to the six recipients selected to embark on the MACH-Track program in 2022. I am delighted to note that MMS and its partners are well represented in the successful cohort. The program will enable them to integrate career development in research, including a PhD, with their postgraduate specialist training.

Priscilla Kincaid-Smith Oration on Health

I’d also like to extend congratulations on behalf of MMS to Professor Christobel Saunders, James Stewart Chair of Surgery, for her delivery of the Priscilla Kincaid-Smith Oration titled ‘Future proofing medical research and innovation’. The oration honours the life and work of Priscilla Kincaid-Smith, a leading nephrologist, and a strong advocate for patients and public health who became the first woman professor at the University in 1975. I recommend you take the time to watch Professor Saunders’ very engaging address.

Ukraine Conflict

On a sombre closing note, a number of staff have spoken to me about wanting to offer appropriate support for the crisis in Ukraine. An institutional level response is in development which the MMS will support in every way possible. My thoughts go out to all who have family, friends and colleagues in the region or who are personally affected by the crisis. I am also heartened by the willingness to contribute and the support you all continue to demonstrate to your colleagues and students.

Professor John Prins
Head, Melbourne Medical School