AFOEM eBulletin – 29 May 2020

A message from your President

First post from your new President during the COVID-19 pandemic

What a time to become the new President of AFOEM. COVID-19 has turned our lives and work upside down in both Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, with unprecedented challenges in our lifetime. In terms of cases of COVID-19, our two countries have done very well in handling the pandemic. This is in stark contrast to most of the rest of the world where the toll has been much higher and healthcare systems have been overwhelmed.  

COVID-19 is having a much greater impact on society and the workplace than simply the counts of cases from the coronavirus itself. The strict physical isolation measures and other restrictions in place have resulted in a severe and widespread economic downturn across many industries in both countries. This has led to an unprecedented number of job losses, with the greatest impact on younger people who are often in the most precarious jobs. For those fortunate enough to keep their jobs, many are working from home. This brings added pressure on effective work arrangements and psychological health. I recently wrote an Editorial on worker health impacts of COVID-19 for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, which can be found online.  

At such a difficult time for industry and workplaces, the principles enshrined in AFOEM’s Health benefits of Good Work (HBGW) Consensus Statement are of paramount importance in optimising the health and wellbeing of workers. The signatories to the Consensus Statement provide an important avenue to promote the HBGW principles during this crisis and beyond. AFOEM is developing a COVID-19 webinar for the HBGW signatories to promote ways to implement these principles during unprecedented times. This is likely to be the first in a series.  

AFOEM is also contributing to the pandemic response in many other ways. Dr Warren Harrex, AFOEM President-elect, is a member of the College COVID-19 Expert Reference Group. This Group is providing much-needed support for COVID-19 planning within the College and beyond. The Faculty Policy & Advocacy Committee (FPAC) has also been developing COVID-19 guidance for our Fellows and trainees on issues such as pregnant workers, vulnerable workers, risk assessment, hierarchy of controls and suitable personal protective equipment. Occupational and environmental physicians have a crucial role to play as our two countries navigate their way through this crisis and into a recovery phase.  

The COVID-19 crisis and the important contribution to the response that AFOEM and its members are making is very likely to dominate most, if not all, of the two years of my Presidency. Nevertheless, it is important that we continue to be active in other vital AFOEM and College activities. One example is addressing the continuing epidemic of silicosis among stonemasons working with artificial stone. While the COVID-19 crisis has led to delays in implementing the interim advice of the silicosis taskforce, AFOEM will continue to work closely with other specialty societies and colleges to bring about much-needed change in this industry. The silicosis epidemic and the previous resurgence of black lung and associated lung diseases in coal mine workers has highlighted a much broader problem with the quality and coverage of health assessments for workers exposed to hazardous substances. This situation is one that AFOEM should play an active role in improving.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis and physical distancing restrictions, the Melbourne 2020 Congress was cancelled. Therefore the annual face-to-face AFOEM Members Meeting could not be held and this was replaced by a webinar on 14 May. Dr Warren Harrex and Dr Alison Drewry gave updates on the great work of FPAC and the Faculty Education Committee (FEC), and there was the opportunity for participants to ask questions. The AFOEM awards were also announced. I would like to congratulate Associate Professor Peter Connaughton for his Policy & Advocacy Award, Dr Andrea James for her Education, Learning and Assessment Award and Dr Amy Bright for her Trainee Commitment Award.
The webinar included a virtual handover of the AFOEM Presidency from Dr Beata Byok, the outgoing AFOEM President. I want to take this opportunity to thank Beata again for her mentoring role while I had my ‘training wheels’ on as President-elect. I have learned a huge amount from her, especially the ability to allow sufficient discussion during meetings, while ensuring we get to the end of the agenda on time. I wish Beata well during her ‘retirement’ from the Presidency. She will continue as a member of FPAC and the College Fellowship Committee, so she will remain a very active contributor to AFOEM and College activities.

There are some crucial issues facing AFOEM which will occupy much of my time over the next two years. One of these is the role and governance of AFOEM within the College structure. For those specialities outside the hospital system, such as occupational and environmental medicine, there are some specific needs related to training and OEM practice which are very different from those in adult medicine. The Future of the Faculty report was compiled by the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, but many of the issues raised in that report also relate to AFOEM. The Presidents of the three Faculties will be working closely with the College to progress much needed reform to ensure they operate in the most effective manner for their Fellows and trainees. The recent Effective Governance review has made a series of recommendations to improve College governance and these also have important implications for AFOEM.

There are important issues facing our AFOEM trainees, the training program and assessment process. The COVID-19 crisis has meant the cancellation of the 2020 examinations, resulting in some anxiety about implications for progression to Fellowship. In addition, a training curriculum review is currently underway which will ensure our curriculum remains fit for purpose and consistent with the evolving role of modern occupational and environmental medicine. These are important priorities for the AFOEM Education Committee. Other priorities for me include raising the profile of research in AFOEM, further developing our important relationship with the Australian and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine (ANZSOM) and increasing AFOEM’s international profile.  

I look forward to working with the new Council, the new President-elect Dr Warren Harrex, our two main committees, FPAC and FEC, the regional committees, our new Executive Officer Lisa Helson and our other very supportive Faculty and College administrators in AFOEM’s next phase of development.  Hopefully we will be able to resume in-person interaction in the near future, as one of the great things about AFOEM is the strong collegiality and friendship among its members.

Take care and stay safe in these challenging times.


Professor Malcolm Sim
AFOEM President

AFOEM COVID-19 – Guidance for pregnant healthcare workers now available online

The Australian Government’s Infection Control Expert Group has advised that they have endorsed the AFOEM COVID-19 – Guidance for pregnant healthcare workers.

This document is now available online via the RACP COVID-19 webpage under Advice and news > Clinical advice for physicians.

Access the AFOEM COVID-19 – Guidance for pregnant healthcare workers online.

Updates on Advanced Training Curricula Renewal 

The common standards for Advanced Training curricula have now been finalised.

Thank you to all members who participated in consultation activities on the draft common standards throughout 2019. Your feedback was used to identify the content that is common across the Advanced Training programs and to refine that content.

There is more work to be done to develop appropriate competencies for cultural competence. We will continue development and consultation in this area. 

This year we will also focus on developing the common elements of the learning, teaching and assessment programs that will support the new Advanced Training curricula. 

Some specialties will also start developing their program-specific curriculum content with assistance from the Curriculum Advisory Group and RACP Curriculum Team. 

Apply for a Digital Health Scholarship 

In partnership with the Australian Digital Health Agency, the RACP are offering digital health scholarships to eligible Australian Fellows and trainees. 

Ten $4,000 scholarships are available for Fellows and trainees familiar with or practicing the use of My Health Record and/or other digital health initiatives in the healthcare environment.

Applicants must:

  • be an RACP Fellow or trainee who resides in Australia
  • be currently employed in a public or private accredited clinical environment
  • have a recent, demonstrated record of adopting various digital health initiatives.

Applications close on Wednesday, 10 June 2020.

For further information and to apply visit the EOI webpage

AFOEM Fellows Interview Series

I am a Sydney based Fellow of AFOEM. Throughout my training and career I have come across inspiring personalities in the Faculty who have faded away in silence once retirement comes. It is my wish to highlight their achievements and share their experiences in short interviews that can be shared in the eBulletin. I have at times witnessed marvellous achievements by senior colleagues in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand and even on international forums which have rather remained unnoticed, hidden from the limelight. I plan to record interviews on a podcast, starting this in a short form for our eBulletin. I am looking forward to talking to colleagues who have inspired others in their careers as an occupational and environmental medicine physician (OEP). This would not only be a source of inspiration for others but would also add to the history of our Faculty. 

Dr Farhan Shahzad MBBS, FAFOEM, Consultant Occupational Physician

An interview with Dr Dwight Dowda 

Farhan: Dr Dwight Dowda thanks for coming along and sharing more about yourself and starting off our series on compiling a history of AFOEM Fellows. Please tell us about yourself, your personal life, education and career?

Dwight: After HSC in 1968, I commenced Medicine at Sydney University in 1969 interrupting studies to do a Bachelor of Medical Science degree by research in the Department of Pathology in 1973. 
I went to the Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH) as a clinical student and graduated in 1976 – I then went straight back to RNSH as an intern, resident and then ultimately registrar in neurosurgery. In 1979 I joined the Royal Flying Doctor Service at Broken Hill after which I returned to Sydney to complete in 1980-1981 my Master of Public Health degree by research at Sydney University.

Farhan: Please tell us how you developed an interest in occupational and environmental medicine?

In 1982 I successfully answered an advertisement by the Electricity Commission of New South Wales for an occupational physician although I didn’t have formal occupational medicine qualifications, because at that time, none were available. I was exposed to an incredible variety of occupational medicine challenges in the Electricity Commission and attended whatever relevant courses were available at the time. My Fellowship in occupational medicine within the newly formed Australasian College of Occupational Medicine was granted after close scrutiny of my experience and work practice by the Board of Censors.

Farhan: Let’s talk about your achievements, memories and highlights of your career.

Dwight: Starting my career under the guidance and mentorship of the 'fathers of Australian occupational medicine' in the early 1980s was one of the highlights. To work with, and be mentored by, such luminaries as David Ferguson, David Douglas and Bill Nelson was a privilege. 

In the late 1980s and through the 1990s my role as a Censor of the College (later Faculty), saw me involved in developing and marking Fellowship examinations and I was given the role of MOPS Censor to oversee the development of what was to become the CPD program. 

Another highlight since 2007 has been my close involvement with the development of Fiji’s new Workmen’s Compensation system, as this small country embarked on ambitious labour reforms. This has meant going to Fiji once or twice a year at the request of the Fijian Department of Labour, teaching Fijian medical practitioners. 

It has been an ongoing honour and pleasure working alongside like-minded and committed colleagues and friends, sharing our amazing voyage from the beginnings of the specialty practice of occupational medicine in Australia through to the present. 

Farhan: Indeed, no doubt, you’ve had a successful and inspiring career. You’ve been a pioneer in occupational medicine in Australia. It was a pleasure talking to you and thanks for sharing.  

For more information about this interview and the series or to speak to the author, please contact Dr Farhan Shahzad via the Faculty office

Apply for the new role of RACP Executive General Manager Strategy and People and Dean of the College

We are recruiting for a strategic leadership role which has been newly created for an RACP Fellow. 
The Executive General Manager Strategy and People and Dean of the College is an integral component of our Senior Leadership Team. The successful applicant will play a significant role in enhancing the strategic impact of the College, representing the greater membership and enhancing the strength of the partnership between members and staff. 

About the role

Reporting to the Chief Executive Officer you will be a leader of the RACP, managing several business areas including the Strategic Coordination Unit, the College Foundation, International Partnerships, the Office of the Dean and People and Culture (formerly HR). 

In this new role you’ll help shape our new direction by delivering a physician’s perspective across the entire College that supports, engages and represents our membership base. You will be a trusted adviser to the Board, its Peak Committees and the CEO. You’ll also play a key role interacting with external stakeholders to evolve the model of healthcare in both Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. 

This high-profile role is ideal if you are looking to expand your career beyond clinical delivery into organisational leadership and development. 

More information about this critical new role is available in the job advertisement and position description.

ANZSOM special newsletter

In this edition of the ANZSOM special newsletter the theme is 'change and the impact that COVID-19 has had around the world'. 

Read the ANZSOM Special Newsletter 10.

Expressions of Interest – College Education Committee Chair

The RACP Board is seeking Expressions of Interests for the Chair of the College Education Committee (CEC) which is the peak committee overseeing all education, training and assessment policy and strategy.

The Chair of the CEC will be appointed by an Expression of Interest process with selection and approval by the Board.

As Chair, the successful applicant will need to commit to attending all meetings throughout the year. Meetings are held three times per year face-to-face, with at least two additional teleconference meetings or as required. There will also be a requirement, as Chair, to participate in several assessment and education committees of the College and associated workshops.

Read the full EOI

WEBINAR: Restructuring financial affairs post COVID-19 – loans, mortgages, superannuation and insurances

RACP and The Professional Medical Practice have worked together to create a webinar on how to restructure your financial affairs to optimise the outcomes and get you back on track despite the massive disruption caused by COVID-19.

Our speakers will cover various topics surrounding investment, loans, mortgages, superannuation and insurances.

Date: Thursday, 4 June 2020
Time: 7pm to 8pm (AEST)

Registrations are essential so make sure you register your interest online.

Research Awards and Travel Grants for 2021

Trainees and Fellows are encouraged to apply for the below opportunities from Monday, 1 June 2020.

  • The AFOEM Registrar Travel Fellowship provides support to an AFOEM registrar to undertake overseas study in an aspect of occupational and environmental medicine.

  • The AFOEM Research Development Grant is available to fund smaller research projects to support and encourage research in the field of occupational and environmental medicine.

Don’t miss your chance to apply for funding for 2021 under the following award categories:

Full details for these opportunities are available on the RACP Foundation website.

Trainee Research Awards proceeding in 2020

Applications for Trainee Research Awards are open from Wednesday, 1 July to Monday, 31 August 2020. Trainees and New Fellows undertaking post-Fellowship training are encouraged to apply.

The Trainee Research Awards provide a wonderful opportunity for trainees to do an oral presentation of their research at an Australian regional or Aotearoa New Zealand event. The best presenters from each local event are invited to be part of the Research and Innovation stream at the 2021 RACP Congress.

Please send your abstract submissions or inquiries by email to your respective regional RACP offices.

New Pomegranate podcast: Ep58: Billing Part Two – Compliance and the Free Market

In this episode we continue the discussion from episode 56 about medical billing in Australia. Almost 500 million Medicare rebates are processed every year and for the most part these are claimed appropriately. But non-compliant billing could be costing the health system over $2 billion annually. The vast majority of this comes down to misunderstanding of the conditions around MBS items, according to our guest Loryn Einstein of Medical Billing Experts.

Every year the Department of Health shifts its attention onto a different specialty area to look at the statistical spread of claiming behaviour. Practitioners at the top end of the curve receive warning letters and flagged practitioners who persist with unaccountable billing behaviour will have their practice audited more thoroughly. Finally, they may be referred to the Professional Services Review, a sort of judicial panel made up of clinical peers.

Questions have been raised by professional bodies and lawyers about the sensitivity of these processes to clinical nuance or procedural fairness, and the lack of education available to practitioners. We hear responses to such concerns from the Department of Health.

Finally, we take a look at the huge range of private medical fees in Australia. Loryn Einstein considers how factors like regulation and supply and demand shape this market.

Fellows of the RACP can claim CPD credits via MyCPD for listening to this episode and reading the resources.

Subscribe to Pomegranate Health in Apple iTunesSpotify or any Android podcasting app.

Listen to podcast

Applications for Motor Accident Injury Accreditation Scheme Medical Expert Peer Reviewers

In the South Australian Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Insurance Scheme, a person who is injured in a motor vehicle accident may be entitled to compensation for their injuries.

The Motor Accident Injury Accreditation Scheme (MAIAS) accredits medical practitioners to undertake Injury Scale Value (ISV) medical assessments to assist in determining an injured person’s entitlement to compensation. 

The key objective of MAIAS is to create an independent system that provides consistent, objective and reliable ISV medical assessments. 

The MAIAS Administrator is currently seeking to appoint a number of medical experts to the MAIAS with an interest in conducting quality assurance reviews, peer mentoring, coaching and training. 

As part of a team, medical expert peer reviewers support the MAIAS Administrator by contributing to:

  • the structure and delivery of quality assurance activities 
  • the annual quality assurance review of ISV Medical Assessment Reports
  • ongoing feedback and mentoring for Accredited Medical Practitioners to improve performance
  • development and delivery of training to support education for the scheme.

To be eligible, applicants must have CTP Scheme knowledge and expertise in AMA5 or GEPIC. 

Information on the appointments and how to apply is available via a simple login on the Tenders SA website. Applications must be submitted via the Tenders SA website by close of business on Tuesday, 23 June 2020.

For further enquiries, call 1300 303 558 or email

For further information on MAIAS visit the MAIAS website.

No more time to waste: Pregnancy warning labels on alcoholic products 

It has taken over two decades since the first calls for effective and mandatory alcohol pregnancy labeling in Australia for the issue to become subject to government regulation. For well over a decade now the RACP has actively supported this crucial and cost-effective intervention to reduce alcohol-related harm amongst the most vulnerable – children. 

In March 2020, when a new, mandatory evidence-based regime recommended by Food Safety Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) finally seemed within reach, then-RACP President Associate Professor Mark Lane sent a letter of support for the measure to all federal, state and territory Ministers responsible for approving the scheme. Yet again, the approval of best-practice labeling was delayed because of industry pressure.  

As FSANZ concludes another review of the scheme and the Ministers prepare to again debate the benefits of the proposal, the College will once more appeal to the law-makers to endorse this overdue yet vital initiative. With the estimated 75,000 alcohol-exposed pregnancies in Australia each year, the time for decisive government action on effective pregnancy warnings on alcohol products is long past. 

Over June and July, we will be urging the responsible Ministers to approve the labeling scheme as originally recommended by FSANZ. We ask you to support our effort by engaging with RACP media and social media as we continue to advocate for this indisputable gain for alcohol harm reduction across Australia.

Aotearoa New Zealand – Budget 2020 

On 14 May 2020, the New Zealand Government delivered Budget 2020, Wellbeing Budget: Rebuilding Together. In response, the RACP released two media statements entitled, ‘Doctors say new health funding must prioritise equity’ and ‘Sustained focus on wellbeing essential to support Aotearoa NZ post-COVID-19’.

The first of these releases welcomes the focus and funding in Budget 2020 for the Aotearoa New Zealand health system, including $3.92b over four years for District Health Boards (DHBs) and a one-off boost of $282.5m to address the backlog of elective procedures and hospital appointments. This investment provides an opportunity for equity to be placed at the forefront of decision-making and to improve health outcomes for Māori and Pasifika facing the reality that, in the face of prognostication and health rationing algorithms, they often fare worse in our health system.

As Dr George Laking, Aotearoa New Zealand President said “Right now, health policy is economic policy, it’s social policy and fiscal policy. The investment we make in health as a country will support our social, economic, physical and environmental wellbeing, as Aotearoa recovers and rebuilds through the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The second of these releases focuses on changes made to the social support system and how they influence the social determinants of health – the ‘causes of the causes’ of poor health and wellbeing. The social determinants of health are at the heart of the RACP’s Making It The Norm campaign, which calls for Whānau WellbeingHealthy Housing and Good Work to become the norm in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Dr Laking said that “The Budget places an emphasis, naturally, on jobs and training. The RACP sees work and employment as inextricably linked to housing and whānau wellbeing. We call on the Government to prioritise sustained investment in addressing the social determinants of health. 

“Budget 2020 still only skirts the edges of long-awaited systemic change in social security. We welcome the direction of change but would support the Government going further to support whānau wellbeing.”

This is something that will be ever more important in the continually evolving world of COVID-19 and the resultant economic shock.

Career opportunities

For other career opportunities, view all positions vacant page on the RACP website.

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. 

Go to the events list at any time to see what events are coming up.

AFOEM contact details

Member enquiries
(AUS) 1300 69 7227
(NZ) 0508 69 7227

AFOEM Faculty enquiries (including Council and committees):

Lisa Helson, AFOEM Executive Officer
Phone: +61 2 8247 6251 

AFOEM Health Benefits of Good Work (HBGW) enquiries:

AFOEM Education and Training enquiries:

AFOEM Examination enquiries:
Examination Coordinator, Assessment and Selection Unit

AFOEM training site accreditation inquiries:
Site Accreditation Unit

AFOEM CPD enquiries:
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