AFOEM eBulletin – 14 December 2021

A message from your President

After a long and challenging year, the end of 2021 is fast approaching. COVID-19 has been the dominant health issue in both Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand all year, but we are in much better shape at the end of 2021 than we were at the beginning. After a slow start, the vaccine rollout, especially in the second half of the year, has been remarkable and our two countries are well on the way to becoming two of the most highly vaccinated countries worldwide.

While this is great news, we can’t forget our obligations to low and middle income countries, which are struggling not only with high caseloads leading to large demands on the health sector, but also with low vaccination rates. The recent emergence of the Omicron variant of concern is another major twist in the pandemic, with the impact of that yet to be determined.

With the increasing vaccination rates among the over 16s and with younger children now in line for vaccination, restrictions are being eased and borders reopening. The re-opening of workplaces is also causing some issues, such as workforce shortages, with some workers choosing not to be vaccinated needing to leave certain industries and those remaining often required to work longer hours.

The other important issue is an increase in workplace violence, especially in hospitality and retail, where checking of vaccination status is leading to abusive behaviour by some customers. I always thought that it was going to be more challenging for workplaces to open up than to close and this is where occupational and environmental physicians have an important role to play.

This COVID-19 issue was the main topic for the last Health Benefits of Good WorkTM webinar – ­‘COVID-19 vaccination and returning to the office’ – which was held on Tuesday, 30 November 2021. The speakers were Associate Professor Margie Danchin, infectious disease physician with a main interest in vaccination, Ms Lindsay Carroll, Legal Practice Director at the National Retail Association, and our own Warren Harrex, who is the AFOEM representative on the College COVID-19 Expert Reference Group.

This was a very interesting and lively webinar, which attracted our largest audience of the year. If you missed it, please have a look at the recording on the RACP website. The webinar was chaired by Keith Govias, who is stepping down as the HBGW Signatory Steering Group Chair. I’d like to pay tribute to Keith’s active and enthusiastic approach to the role of Chair and thank him for his important contribution. Noni Byron, who is the Managing Director of Prestige Health Services Australia, will be taking over as Chair of the SSG and we look forward to working closely with Noni and the rest of the HBGW Signatory team in 2022.

As I flagged in my last President’s Post, the AFOEM Stage B exams were held on the weekend of 13 to 14 November 2021. Despite some minor technological issues, which were quickly dealt with by the extremely capable College Education and Learning team, both the digital exams on the Saturday and the hybrid digital and face-to-face clinical exams on the Sunday were completed without a hitch. I had firsthand experience of this, as I was an examiner on both days.

After the disappointment of the exams being cancelled in 2020, it was a great relief to see the successful completion of the AFOEM exams this year. This has been due to careful planning by the ELA team, the AFOEM Assessment Committee and the enthusiastic involvement of a large number of AFOEM Fellows who set the exams and acted as examiners. This has been a major team effort and a big thank you to all involved. I also wish our Registrars well as they await their exam results.

In other news, AFOEM FPAC met recently and had a packed agenda. The silicosis advocacy has paid dividends with the national occupational respiratory disease registry starting to be developed by the Department of Health with AFOEM and College input. A major development with the registry is its expansion to cover all occupational respiratory diseases, not just silicosis. The national silicosis clinical guidelines are also nearing completion. Another major FPAC issue at the moment is the ‘It Pays to Care’ project. A dissemination and communication plan has been developed by FPAC, which will be launched in early 2022. This should have a major impact on improving return to work outcomes for injured workers.

There are two other major projects which are in development by FPAC. The first is updating the AFOEM Health Assessments for Work guidelines. The current version was released in 1998! A lot has changed in the last quarter of a century, so these guidelines need urgent updating, especially considering they are such a major part of the work of occupational and environmental physicians.

The second major issue is the health of healthcare workers. What has become clear to many of us is that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown major gaps in occupational health services and the involvement of occupational and environmental physicians in the healthcare sector. This is not just in relation to COVID-19, but also the myriad of other health issues facing those who work in the health sector. There is strong support for advocacy on this issue within the College and we will also be working closely with ANZSOM to progress this important issue.

AFOEM Council also met a couple of weeks ago and has a full work plan. One of the key issues which came up after Council members completed the Skills and Experience Register was the need to strengthen research capability in AFOEM. Related to this is the low number of applications and poor uptake of available AFOEM research, study and travel grants over recent years. We are planning to tweak the criteria for these grants with examples of the types of activities which can be funded to make them more appealing to trainees and Fellows.

We are also making plans to increase the profile of these grants among AFOEM members and hold a webinar in early 2022 about the application process to help improve the quality of applications. Another major AFOEM issue is the Occupational and Environmental Medicine (OEM) workforce and we are arranging to work with the Faculty of Public Health to expand a project on public health medicine workforce planning to the OEM workforce.

AFOEM Education Committee also has several important issues to deal with in 2022, including the advanced training curriculum renewal project and the changes to CPD requirements. These activities provide an opportunity to update our training program and our post-Fellowship professional development.

The RACP’s Online Community (ROC) is now available for AFOEM Fellows and Registrars. A report at AFOEM Council showed that contributions from AFOEM members have not been high as yet, so again I’d like to encourage all of our members to set up your profile in the ROC and actively engage with your colleagues. 

I’d also like to remind everyone about three important conferences being held in early 2022: 

  • The digital International Congress on Occupational Health (ICOH) will be held from 6 to 10 February 2022 and will focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers and their workplaces, as well as a wide range of other topical occupational medicine issues. So far, more than 1000 registrations have been received and it is shaping up to be a major event on the occupational health calendar. Further information on the ICOH 2022 and registration details can be found here.
  • The second major conference is the ANZSOM Annual Scientific Meeting to be held in Brisbane from 20 to 23 March 2022, for which AFOEM is the scientific partner. Early bird registration closes on Monday, 20 December 2021, so register now and make the most of this opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues in Brisbane. Details on the program and how to register can be found here.
  • The third conference is the RACP Congress, which will be held in Melbourne and Auckland from 12 to 14 May 2022. The AFOEM sessions at Congress are being put together and details should be available in early 2022. There will also be an AFOEM dinner on Wednesday, 11 May 2022. We are also planning for the Annual Training Meeting for trainees to resume the weekend after Congress.

Finally, I’d like to thank the College team which has provided such high-level support for AFOEM activities over what has been a very challenging 2021. Lisa Helson was our very capable Executive Officer (EO) for most of the year before moving into the Adult Medicine Division.  We were very sad to see Lisa move on, but we have been very fortunate that LynFay Shapiro has taken over the EO role, after having a similar role with another medical college.

Claire Celia coordinated our policy and advocacy efforts throughout most of 2021 before moving into other roles within the Policy & Advocacy (P&A) team, but Kathryn Powell, who is a very experienced P&A team member, has stepped into that role recently. Throughout these changes in the support team, Jo Goldrick has been a pillar of strength in keeping AFOEM on track and we are grateful for her tireless efforts over the past 12 months. I’m confident we will have great support for our many projects as we move into 2022.

After such a long and challenging year, I hope everyone is able to have some rest and recreation over the upcoming summer break and return in 2022 with your batteries recharged.

Professor Malcolm Sim
AFOEM President

AFOEM Fellows interview series

This interview series provides insight into the careers of retired and actively serving occupational physicians. The series has supported a collaboration amongst our peers in developing projects on compiling the history of occupational medicine. On this occasion, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Rosemary Nixon.

Dr Farhan Shahzad, Consultant Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Sydney 

Farhan: Welcome, Dr Rosemary Nixon. Please tell us a bit about your life, medical career, and training?

Rosemary: A key event in my earlier life which influenced me was taking a gap year and working as a lab assistant at Prince Henry’s Department of Medicine in Melbourne. Until then, I really hadn’t considered a career in medicine. I met some inspirational folk who were undertaking physician training and doing research. Initially I didn’t get in to medicine, which was a bit of a blow, but I ended up doing an Honours Degree in Biochemistry. It turned out that chemistry training became useful in contact dermatitis.

I entered what was called the ‘Combined Year’ at Monash which took four years to complete the medical course, starting with both 2nd and 3rd year anatomy. I decided to pursue dermatology training having enjoyed it as a student. After failing the final exams, my colleague, (now Professor) Greg Goodman, who was starting up the Skin & Cancer Foundation in Carlton said, “we need to have a contact dermatitis clinic at the foundation. Would you be prepared to do it?” Of course I said, “yes.”

In those days after failing the exams, you didn’t get another registrar job and I needed work. So I started the inaugural Contact Dermatitis Clinic in 1987 and loved it. However, I didn’t so much like seeing women who used myriads of cosmetics and perfumes but enjoyed seeing the young tradies who came in with complicated histories and problems with workplace chemicals. No-one had really specialised in occupational dermatology in Melbourne, so after passing my exams, I went off to study in London with Dr Richard Rycroft at St John’s Institute of Dermatology.

On my return, I realised how important occupational medicine was, so I began a Masters of Public Health in the occupational medicine stream at Monash. I started an occupational dermatology clinic in 1993 at Monash Medical Centre and was spending more and more time doing occupational work.   

I gained my Fellowship in Occupational Medicine in 1994 and am currently the only person with Australian qualifications in both Dermatology and Occupational Medicine. I moved the clinic back to the Skin & Cancer Foundation in 2001 where I had more autonomy. It has recently been renamed the Skin Health Institute. With some initial government funding, I established a small research group – the Occupational Dermatology Research and Education Centre -– which continues to this day.

Farhan: What are some of the memories and highlights of your career?

Rosemary: Developing an overseas network of colleagues through meeting at conferences has been a fantastic part of my experience. However, in order to do that I travelled a lot and this required much organisation, especially with a young family. I’m involved in both an international group (the International Contact Dermatitis Research Group) and an Asia-Pacific group.

I think my most important achievement has been promoting awareness of contact dermatitis to dermatologists. When dermatologists are confronted by patients with an eczematous rash, it is easy to just reach for the prescription pad and not think about the cause of the condition. It might be caused by something they’re touching and be misdiagnosed as endogenous eczema.

In addition, we defined the Australian Baseline Series almost 10 years ago based on our extensive data collection. We were able to decide which were the most important, frequent, and relevant contact allergens in our population. Then we established our Contact Allergen Bank where we provide pre-prepared allergens for patch testing, and this has interested dermatologists all over Australia. This led to more demand for educational offerings in contact dermatitis.

It has also been fantastic mentoring young research Fellows over the last 20 years, many of whom have ended up as dermatologists performing patch testing.

Farhan: What would you like to do with more time, resources, and opportunity at your disposal?

Rosemary: Our work is very much driven by the cases of occupational contact dermatitis we see in the clinic. Having a good database is a really important start.

I have been increasingly aware of the development of literature on the Health Benefits of Nature. There is a fantastic website from the American Society of Landscape Architecture which lists all the medical conditions that can be improved by spending time outdoors. I think that’s a very interesting area.

Farhan: Do you have a message for trainees and fellow occupational physicians?

Rosemary: Get involved! Go to conferences – although it’s not quite the same online. Interact with your colleagues locally, nationally, and overseas. Get involved in training. Contribute! When you volunteer, as they say, you get back far more than you put in. There have been some fantastic contributors to AFOEM, especially Professor Malcolm Sim AM and Dr David Goddard.

RACP President's Indigenous Congress Prize

The RACP President's Indigenous Congress Prize is open to medical students, junior medical officers and RACP trainees who identify as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or Māori.

The selected applicant will receive support to attend the 2022 RACP Congress to gain educational and networking opportunities and exposure to career pathways within the College.

Please encourage anyone you know who is eligible to apply before the deadline on Monday, 31 January 2022. Visit the RACP President's Indigenous Congress Prize website for more information.

Ramazzini Prize

Are you a registered AFOEM trainee? Have you submitted your research project this year? Apply for the Ramazzini Prize – awarded annually for the best scientific paper related to OEM by an AFOEM trainee.

Submissions close Monday, 31 January 2022. Visit the Ramazzini Prize website for more information.


ANZSOM 2022 Annual Scientific Meeting

The ANZSOM Annual Scientific Meeting will be held at the Victoria Park Function Venue, on Sunday, 20 March to Wednesday, 23 March 2022.

Full registration includes: History of occupational medicine witness seminar, welcome cocktails, three days of technical program, the choice of four workshops, two afternoons of site visits with the eight different workplaces available, a packed exhibition hall, and four full days of fellowship and networking.

Registrations are now open, with Early Bird discounts available until Monday, 20 December 2021. Day registration and virtual registration options are also available.

Visit the ANZSOM website for more details regarding workshops and site visits and to view the full program.

Call for papers

The Organising Committee of the ASM 2022 is now calling for papers for this major educational event. This is an opportunity to share your work with colleagues and to progress good practice in occupational medicine. The theme of the conference “Changing Work: Culture - COVID - Climate” will accommodate a broad range of topics.

Please submit your abstract online or download and complete the pdf form and return to the ANZSOM Secretariat by Friday, 31 December 2021. Email:

See you in Brisbane in 2022!




RACP Congress 2022

RACP Congress 2022 is bringing together a packed program that explores the ideas of what specialists can do to bring about positive change and the best approaches to achieve this.

Hear Keynote speaker, Dr Sandro Demaio draw on his background and personal experiences in the session: Health promotion helping to rebuild a healthy population.

We also explore what else we can be doing in the session: Improving workforce and support for rural and remote communities and reflect on lessons from COVID-19 - a global game changer.

Don’t miss your Early Bird discount.

Visit the RACP Congress website to explore the program and register to attend. Book by by Friday, 31 December 2021 to secure your early bird pricing.


Raise awareness of your research at RACP Congress 2022 

One of the features of RACP Congress is the opportunity to share your research with a broad audience. You are now able to submit your abstracts for consideration for RACP Congress 2022.

The closing date for submissions is Friday, 4 February 2022. Don’t miss this chance to raise awareness of your work.

Safe training environments: addressing bullying, harassment and discrimination

Many of us are aware of ongoing reports from our members which indicate bullying, harassment, discrimination, and uncivil behaviours are significant issues within medicine.

Hostile interactions in training and work environments negatively impact safe patient care, lead to psychological stress and inhibit learning.

The RACP ethos holds that respect and care for our patients and colleagues is of the utmost importance.

The RACP has an unambiguous responsibility to lead, promote, and support members in delivering safe patient care and facilitating positive learning environments.

In response to these reports, the Safe Training Environments Summit on Friday, 5 November 2021 brought together members of the College Education Committee, College Trainees’ Committee, and invited guests to collaborate and agree on a strategic approach to tackling bullying, harassment and discrimination in training environments.

We were grateful to hear from Dr Sally Langley, President of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, regarding their approach to dealing with bullying, harassment, and discrimination in surgical training programs. Summit participants worked together to explore the root causes of these issues and prioritise key strategic areas where the RACP can take action.

In coming months, the RACP will be developing and sharing with you a strategic action plan to support this important work.

Physicians have a critical leadership role in setting the tone and behaviour of healthcare teams to foster respectful behaviour and attitudes. We call on you to be involved and join us in creating safe work and training environments.

Associate Professor Mitra Guha AM              Dr Davina Buntsma
Chair, College Education Committee             Chair, College Trainees’ Committee

Seeking your input to develop our new International Strategy

A new five-year RACP International Strategy is being developed, and we are seeking your advice and input. We want to know what you are doing in the international space, what you feel the College should be doing, and how you view the future role of the RACP internationally.

Please take time to reflect and advise on the following:

  • What activities are you involved with in the international space that involve (or should involve) the College?
  • What do you think is important in shaping the future role of the RACP internationally?

Please email your responses to

Focus areas of international engagement

We have identified three focus areas of international engagement by the College and its members:

  • Learn through partnership – including benchmarking, research and teaching collaborations with selected international colleges and similar entities
  • Trusted provider – micro-credentialling, educational provider, expert resource to doctors world-wide, but especially in our region
  • Global health supporter (LMIC) – we have rich and historical links with partner countries in our region. These are guided by RACP engagement principles:
  • Are we wanted/have we been asked for assistance?
  • Is there an identified need that supports and builds capacity?
    • Local clinicians
    • Builds the in-country health system
  • Is the engagement robust and sustainable?
  • Will it displace an existing, functioning activity?
  • Does it use the College’s core capability in postgraduate training?

Find out more about RACP International Strategy.

Pomegranate Health podcast 

Making Amends - Medical Injury Part 3 (Ep76) is the third podcast in a series about medical injury. In the first podcast - Saying Sorry- Medical Injury Part 1 (Ep74) - we talked about what patients and their families want to hear after a iatrogenic injury. And how practitioners can provide victims of adverse healthcare incidents with the comfort they seek.

In the second podcast - Feeling Guilty- Medical Injury Part 2 (Ep75) – we explored the guilt that can come about from having caused harm, and the cognitive dissonance this creates in one’s professional identity as a healer.

We also heard how fear of medicolegal suits is a major obstacle to greater transparency, at least in Australia, where litigation is virtually the only way for victims to get financial compensation for their hardship and ongoing care. While Aotearoa New Zealand, by contrast, operates a no-fault compensation scheme where all such costs are born by the government.

In Making Amends- Medical Injury Part 3 (Ep76) we’ll look at the advantages this system has, for patients and practitioners, and also some of the issues that remain unresolved.


  • Associate Professor Marie Bismark FAFPHM (Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne).
  • Associate Professor Katharine Wallis FRACGP FACRRM (Head, Primary Care Clinical Unit, University of Queensland)

Note: We are looking for new members to join the Podcast Editorial Group for 2022.

Key responsibilities are to:

  • discuss potential new podcast topics and prioritise them for development
  • for a chosen topic, suggest themes to explore and people to interview
  • listen to audio drafts and provide feedback to the producer to improve it before publication.

If you are interested in joining the RACP Podcast Editorial Group, please complete the application form and return by email to Applications close Monday, 31 January 2022.

Transcripts and supporting references are available on the Pomegranate Health website.

Subscribe to email alerts or search for ‘Pomegranate Health’ in Apple PodcastsSpotifyCastbox or any podcasting appFellows of the RACP can claim CPD credits for listening and learning via MyCPD.

Discover RACP Online Learning

We understand that you’re busy and that’s why our online courses are created to allow you to dip in and out, or just do the parts that are relevant to you. Developed by members, for members, the interactive nature of our online courses enables you to learn from your peers.

Covering important professional and clinical topics, such as ethics, cultural competence, communication skills, genomics, quality and safety, plus more, RACP Online Learning is free for members and counts towards Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements.

Discover your online options today.

Health Sector Women's Leadership Summit

Created by Australia’s leading authority on women’s leadership, Women & Leadership Australia (WLA), The Australian Health Sector Women’s Leadership Summit is a major new online event for women leaders at all levels and across all facets of the health sector.

Guiding health sector organisations through the coronavirus pandemic and continuing to prioritise patient care has placed extraordinary demands on leaders across Australia and the world.

The world as we knew it has changed, and for some, a level of ambiguity will remain. This critical juncture presents a timely opportunity to reflect and learn from our recent experience and rethink the way we do things.

The Summit supports leadership development through strategic industry-based networking, targeted skills development, and opportunities for leaders to share their experiences. The Summit will also provide access to an unparalleled group of inspirational women leaders and role models.

This interactive, online event will feature inspirational keynote presentations, expert workshops, panel discussions, participant breakout sessions and discussion forums.

 Date and time:

  • Friday, 25 March 2022
  • Attendee registration will commence at 8:40am (AEDT)
  • Summit sessions will conclude at 3.40pm (AEDT)

Fees and registration:

To celebrate the launch of this exciting event, WLA is offering the first 100 delegates an incredible ‘Super Saver' registration rate of A$295 + GST (standard rate is A$695 + GST).

To find out more, visit Women & Leadership Australia.

Australian and New Zealand Affiliate of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine: Improving Diagnosis 2022 Conference

Announcing new dates for the ANZA-SIDM Improving Diagnosis 2022 Conference.

Having been postponed due to COVID-19, the conference will be taking place virtually from Thursday, 28 April to Friday, 29 April 2022 (AEST).

Previously known as the Australasian Diagnostic Error in Medicine Conference, the Improving Diagnosis conference will be hosted by the Australian and New Zealand Affiliate of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (ANZA-SIDM).

ANZA-SIDM will bring together diverse multidisciplinary groups including researchers, patients, physicians, surgeons, radiologists, paramedics, linguists, psychologists, medical administrators, and others – who are dedicated to the subject of making diagnosis safer.

The conference theme is: Embracing Challenges and Change.

For more information, visit Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine.

Appraisal by the Medical Services Advisory Committee

Scheduled agenda items for the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) Meeting –
31 March to 1 April 2022.

Application 1354.1 – Intravascular ultrasound guided coronary stent insertion

Application 1613 – Permanent acute coronary syndrome event detector (insertion, removal or replacement of) for monitoring of the heart's electrical activity

Application 1614.1 - Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound for the treatment of medically refractory essential tremor

Application 1646 – Whole genome sequencing of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens

Application 1669 – KRAS G12C variant testing to determine eligibility for PBS-subsidised sotorasib second-line therapy in patients with locally advanced or metastatic non small cell lung cancer

Application 1673 – Single operator, single use, peroral cholangiopancreatoscopy for diagnosis of indeterminate biliary strictures and removal of difficult biliary stones

Application 1678 - Integrating practice pharmacists into Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (The IPAC Project)

Application 1679 – Improved medication management for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Feasibility Study (IMeRSe Feasibility Study)

Application 1695 – Procedures for the implantation and refill-exchange of the Port Delivery System with ranibizumab to treat neovascular age-related macular degeneration

Application 1699 - National Lung Cancer Screening Program

Consultation input

MSAC values consultation input from individuals and organisations with an interest in an application that it is considering, including experience of the medical conditions, services or technologies being addressed by the application.

Consultation input must be received by no later than Friday, 11 February 2022 for it to be considered by MSAC at its March/April 2022 meeting. A Consultation Survey Form is available on the relevant application webpage.

For more information regarding MSAC, including how to apply for a new MBS item or a change to an existing MBS item, status of reviews and completed reports, or subscribing to the email bulletin, please refer to the MSAC website or contact the Health Technology Assessment Access Point via:

MSAC website:

Expressions of Interest

AFOEM Faculty Assessment Committee seeks expressions of interest to coordinate the AFOEM Written and Practical Examinations.

Career opportunities

View all vacant positions.

Conferences and events

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians publishes notices of events and courses as a service to members. Such publication does not constitute endorsement or mandating of any such events or courses. 

AFOEM contact details

AFOEM Faculty enquiries (including Council and committees):
LynFay Shapiro
AFOEM Executive Officer

AFOEM Education and Training enquiries:
Education Officer
Phone: +61 2 8247 6268

AFOEM Examination enquiries:

Examination Coordinator, Assessment and Selection Unit

AFOEM training site accreditation inquiries:
Site Accreditation Unit

AFOEM CPD enquiries:


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