Message from the Head of School

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this finds you in good health as we enter the winter months. It has yet again been a busy period in the Melbourne Medical School (MMS) with a number of new initiatives launched since my last update.

Launch of the Australian Centre for Advancing Diabetes Innovations (ACADI)

Last week we officially launched the ACADI research centre which was established by MTPConnect’s Targeted Transition Research Accelerator (TTRA) Initiative. The award of $10 million over four years from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) will see the completion of a diverse portfolio of projects focussing on some of the complications of diabetes that are the most difficult to treat.

Alongside Associate Professor Elif Ekinci as the Centre Director, Dr Susan Alberti AC will lead ACADI as the inaugural Chair of the Council. Dr Alberti will already be well-known to many of you for her major contributions to life in Australia as a leading businesswoman in the construction industry, a pioneer of the Australian Women’s Football League and as a philanthropist.

ACADI launch

L to R: Professor James McCluskey (Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Research), Associate Professor Elif Ekinci (Director, ACADI), Lauren Kelly (Senior Director TTRA Program, MTPConnect), Dr Susan Alberti AC (Chair, ACADI Council), Professor John Prins (Head, Melbourne Medical School and ACADI Deputy Director)
Photo credit: Imaging & Posters - University of Melbourne

The launch was hosted at ACADI’s headquarters, Melbourne Connect, with leading diabetes experts from across Australia, industry partners, consumers and MTPConnect representatives in attendance. Three members of the University of Melbourne Medical Students' Orchestra, Sarah, Vincent and Emily, formed a String Trio and their outstanding talent contributed to the wonderful atmosphere at the launch.

ACADI launch musicians

L to R: Medical Students Sarah Chang, Vincent Wang and Emily Sun
Photo credit: Imaging & Posters - University of Melbourne

Preceding the launch ACADI hosted a workshop with over 100 attendees joining in person or online to discuss the appetite for establishing an Australasian Diabetes Clinical Trials Network.

ACADI launch diabetes network

Australasian Diabetes Clinical Trials Network Workshop, Melbourne Connect

Collaborative for Better Health and Regulation Launch

Last week also saw the successful launch of the Collaborative for Better Health and Regulation hosted in partnership with Melbourne Law School and the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. The Collaborative aims to improve public health and the quality of healthcare in Australia through exploring the crucial role of regulation in addressing contemporary issues facing medical practice and research.

In the first of a series of panel discussions experts explored the complex legal, ethical and professional issues raised by consultation audio recording in Australian healthcare settings.

Shepparton Infrastructure Opening

In news of yet another launch I am pleased to advise that I attended the official opening of the much-anticipated new accommodation and teaching and learning spaces at the Department of Rural Health’s Shepparton campus last month. It was extraordinary to see the rapid rate of progress even in the short time since my last visit to Shepparton and I again congratulate all involved in bringing this project to successful completion. Please refer to the article in this edition of the newsletter for a further wrap-up of the launch.

MMS Annual Planning Meeting

Just over a week ago the MMS Executive convened its annual planning meeting at The Woodward. Fifty staff, students, valued health service partners and leaders from the Faculty, Melbourne School of Health Sciences and Melbourne Dental School, met to discuss issues and strategies focussed on addressing the future health workforce through the development of new initiatives, partnerships and training programs.

During the first session we discussed the introduction of competitive temporary positions for outstanding early career clinician-researchers. There was excellent support from both MMS and our health services partners for collaboration on this initiative and discussion swiftly moved to plans for implementation. It is envisaged that this program will offer a limited number of clinician-researcher positions of a defined duration with significant protected research time for the specific purpose of establishing an independent research program.

Following this we had a very robust discussion on what the health workforce of the future should look like. There was significant interest in the expansion and roll-out of successful existing offerings as well as a strong desire to introduce new programs. There was also an appetite to further consider offerings in the post-graduate medical sphere. Participants reiterated their commitment to a multi-disciplinary and inter-professional approach with a commitment to ensuring programs have rural and regional relevance.

This is only a very brief snapshot - thoughts and suggestions from those in attendance are currently being consolidated and there will shortly be more details on the above discussions and an opportunity for you to contribute to the planning of future initiatives.

Australian Clinical Entrepreneur Program (CEP) Funding Success

I am delighted to report that the MMS has partnered in a successful funding bid for $2.6 million through MTPConnect's Researcher Exchange and Development within Industry (REDI). Commencing in September 2022, an Australian CEP pilot program will deliver workshops and networking opportunities to provide clinicians with a pathway to entrepreneurship while retaining their focus on clinical care. The pilot will be led by the University of Melbourne in partnership with the University of Western Australia.

The Australian CEP pilot will build on the very successful Innovation Acceleration Program which is conducted in partnership with our health service colleagues. It will enable further support and encouragement to be provided to clinicians in their endeavours to leverage the commercial pipeline.

Vale Professor Ruth Bishop

Before closing I’d like to acknowledge the passing of leading scientist and microbiologist Professor Ruth Bishop who will long be remembered for her remarkable contributions to the identification and prevention of rotavirus which have had a lasting impact on child health worldwide.

Professor John Prins
Head, Melbourne Medical School