Welcome from Head of Department

Dear Colleagues,

We have a new call to action – Let 2023 be the year of positive reform for primary care! 2022 seems to have culminated in a national focus on the general practitioner workforce shortage and the deficiencies of Medicare in supporting quality primary care for all.  Current Medicare rebates inadequately reward the long consultations and team-based care necessary to address the rising burden of chronic illness and multi-morbidity. Bulkbilling is no longer a viable business model for general practice and the decline of bulkbilling has been associated with people either forgoing care or presenting to hospital Emergency Departments resulting in overflow and stress for staff and patients.

Our Department has joined the RACGP in their crisis summit to advocate for the changes required to strengthen primary care, built around general practice as the coordinating platform for person centred care integration. The University of Melbourne is a research-intensive, teaching university and aims to do its part in attracting medical students and students of other health disciplines into rewarding careers in primary care. We are grateful for all the general practices who teach our students and research with us which enable us to undertake this work. We have a stellar Department of General Practice with eight professorial staff leading primary care research and teaching teams in cancer, mental health, family violence and abuse prevention, children and young people’s health, data driven quality improvement of chronic disease care, health informatics and biostatistics, co-design and implementation science and trials and use of data for intervention and disease surveillance.  We have built pathways for GPs and GP registrars wanting to train in research and teaching and undertake PhDs to enable general practice-led innovation for a brighter future.  A strong primary care system is the backbone of a healthier population – the late Barbara Starfield’s work demonstrated this.

With this context in mind, I am delighted to announce the following winners of the 2021 VicREN Research Awards:  Dr Terry Ahern and Gerry Formica from Moreland General Practice for their strong support and excellent communication skills in the MiND study; Tamara Lowry-Cisar and Danielle Trezise from UFS Medical for their passionate involvement and exceptional data collection in the SMARTscreen study; and the Camberwell Road Medical Practice for the phenomenal contribution of time, promotion and data delivery to the ACCT Healthy Hearts study. It is thanks to the ongoing participation and contribution from our wonderful research and education network that important evidence-based studies such as these can take place and hopefully go on to improve the health of all Australians.

Speaking of recognition for excellence, our very own Samantha Parkin has received an Award for Outstanding Student Services by the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences. The award recognises her excellent work in managing the DGP honours program and her willingness to go above and beyond for her students. Additionally, our PhD student Amy Coe has been awarded the 2022 MDHS Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Research. Well done Sam and Amy.

We can also announce several promotions of our academic staff. Congratulations to:

  • Caroline Johnson to Level D Associate Professor
  • Cath Kaylor-Hughes to Level C – Senior Research Fellow
  • Sibel Saya to Level B – Research Fellow
  • Minerva Kyei-Onanjiri to Level B - Research Fellow
  • Mandy McKenzie to Level B – Research Fellow

I would also like to extend my congratulations to all the members of the SAFE team for their recent recipience of a Victorian Public Healthcare Award. This is well-deserved recognition for all the hard work and effort that the SAFE team has put in to developing and refining their system audit (SAFE) tool. The team worked closely with 18 Victorian health services, providing them with detailed organisational analysis and feedback. I have no doubt their valuable input will lead to improved pathways to safety for women affected by family violence.

We have three new International Graduate Research students in the Department. Dr Tina George joins us from Christian Medical College Vellore in India and is undertaking a PhD with Professor Jo-Anne Manski-Nankervis on multimorbidity. Jessie (Yichen) Xue will be working with Professor Victoria Palmer and Dr Matthew Lewis on improving heart health for people with severe mental illness. And finally, Dr Lucas Mendon̉«a joins us from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Lucas is undertaking a Masters of Primary Health Care on the accuracy of algorithms in Patron with Professor Jo-Anne Manski-Nankervis. I welcome them all to the Department and wish them the best for their studies.

In this December edition of our newsletter, you can read all about the importance of including primary healthcare professionals in cancer research; discover the new Miscarriage Australia website where people will be able to access evidence-based information and resources all in the one place; as well as an interesting interview with Dr Christine Hallinan on the rising use of medicinal cannabis. Lots of thought-provoking reading to kick off your festive season.

Finally, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has engaged with the Department throughout the year. From those who sign on, year after year, to teach the next generation of general practitioners, to those giving their time to recruit and participate in research. It is your ongoing support and commitment that has made the Department of General Practice the leading academic research centre in Australia. We appreciate everything you do and look forward working with you again in 2023.

Some photos to share...

Prof Lena Sanci and visiting clinician Dr Alicia Boo from the National University of Singapore.

Prof Jane Gunn (our previous Head of Department), Prof Lena Sanci (our current Head of Department), and Prof Doris Young (our very first Head of Department).

Prof Doris Young, standing in front of her photo on our wall at the Department (our homage to the founder of the Department of General Practice).