AFOEM eBulletin – 30 April 2021

A message from your President

Autumn is well and truly here and in Melbourne that means crisp mornings, sunny days and the leaves of deciduous trees turning red, orange or yellow.  A great time of the year. We didn’t have much of a summer this year, but on the positive side that meant no repeat of the summer bushfire crisis we experienced last summer. I have recently had an extended break over the Easter period after my ‘retirement’ from Monash after 32 years, so feeling more refreshed for the year ahead. I have put retirement in inverted commas, as I seem to be as busy as ever. I’d like to thank Warren for doing the President’s Post last month during my break. Good practice for him when he takes over as President in just over a year.

COVID-19 continues to dominate the health landscape in both of our countries, with the focus pivoting more towards the vaccine rollout instead of preventive programs, which dominated the first year of the pandemic. As expected, the vaccine rollout has been challenging, with regular barriers thrown up, such as the emergence of virus variants and the rare, but serious, clotting condition associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.  These factors have not helped to overcome vaccine hesitancy in the community, but they should not interfere with the key message that high rates of community vaccination are required for borders to reopen and minimise the chances of large community outbreaks and lockdowns. High vaccination rates in workplaces, coupled with a comprehensive prevention program, are critical for those workplaces to stay open, to ensure the health and safety of their workers and maintain ‘good work’ in terms of physical and mental health. Occupational and environmental physicians have a crucial role to play as a ‘trusted source’ of accurate information and facilitating vaccination for workers.  

The 2021 RACP Congress has just commenced and AFOEM is contributing several important sessions. This year, Congress is a mix of one-day in-person sessions in six cities in both countries with the program also being delivered virtually over the two- week program, which started yesterday. A highlight will be Michael Shanahan’s Ferguson-Glass Oration which will be held on the morning of Saturday, 1 May in Adelaide.  Michael’s topic is ‘Inherent tensions: The practice of occupational medicine as a medical professional’ and I’m sure his talk will be informative, thought provoking and entertaining. The Ramazzini Prize presentations will be held virtually on Saturday, 8 May and it will be very helpful for our trainees to have a large virtual audience to hear of the important research they have been undertaking. Another session I’d like to highlight is ‘Developing our successors: It takes a village to raise a child; it takes an occupational and environmental medicine community to develop a trainee’, which is to be held on Monday, 10 May. This session will have a major focus on the role of supervisors within the AFOEM training program and ways that we can make the trainee-supervisor relationship as effective and meaningful for those participating and for AFOEM as a whole. We are really keen to maximise audience participation in this session. It is not too late to register for RACP Congress and further details can be found on the RACP Congress website.  

AFOEM is continuing to develop its strong links with the Australian and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine (ANZSOM). We have recently revised the Model of Collaboration between ANZSOM and AFOEM and the two bodies are continuing to work on collaborative projects. An important example is ANZSOM recently establishing a working group to develop an Australian Occupational Health Value Proposition and is seeking input from AFOEM members. Another important collaboration is the ANZSOM Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) to be held in Brisbane from 21 November to 24 November 2021. AFOEM is the scientific partner for this ASM, which will be held face-to-face, COVID permitting. As anyone who has been to an ANZSOM ASM knows, these meetings are not only informative and cover topical issues in occupational medicine but provide a great forum for catching up with colleagues and friends. Please see the ANZSOM website for more details. Finally, I’d like to pay special tribute to Melinda Miller for her tireless work as ANZSOM President for the past six years. Melinda was the driving force behind the Model of Collaboration, as well as raising the profile and activity of ANZSOM during her Presidency. Dominic Yong has taken over recently as ANZSOM President and we wish him well in his new role and look forward to continuing to work with him and ANZSOM in the future.

The AFOEM Policy & Advocacy Committee (FPAC) is continuing its important work and raising the profile of our Faculty within the College and externally. FPAC’s document ‘It Pays to Care’, very ably led by Mary Wyatt, is making an important contribution to improving return to work outcomes. This has recently been endorsed by the College Policy and Advocacy Committee and will now move to the external consultation and communication stage. The Health Benefits of Good Work program has also kicked off for 2021, with a webinar on COVID airborne transmission risks and return to work held in April. This featured Amanda Sillcock and Dino Pisaniello and was very timely given the current debate about airborne transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Further HBGW webinars, with a focus on mental health, are planned for 2021.  


Professor Malcolm Sim
AFOEM President

AFOEM Fellows interview series

This series provides insight into the careers of retired and actively serving physicians in occupational medicine. I am very privileged and extremely humbled to continue to meet inspiring colleagues. On this occasion I had the pleasure of talking to Dr Chris Oates. 

Dr Farhan Shahzad, Consultant Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Sydney

An interview with Dr Chris Oates

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

I served in various roles with the Australian and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine (ANZSOM) at a time before there was close cooperation with AFOEM, first in various posts in the NSW branch and then as Treasurer General of the National ANZSOM body for six years through a period of transition towards a professional secretariat, which has turned ANZSOM into the slick and professional organisation that it is today.  

My special interests have switched from an earlier interest in aviation medicine, then taking up work with the WCC (Workers Compensation Commission) and the Medical Assessment Service of Motor Accidents Authority to begin work in dispute assessment for Whole Person Impairment and treatment disputes. As I gained experience, I became increasingly comfortable in navigating these often complex cases. I have particularly enjoyed my last 15 years as a Medical Review Panel member, interacting collegially with two other medical specialists to achieve a decision which can be accepted by both parties in a dispute. I have also enjoyed providing a regional centre day clinic consultancy service in several NSW centres over a 20-year period.

Farhan: Where to from here?

Chris: I moved back to the Gold Coast from Sydney after 30 years in 2013 ostensibly to semi-retire but I maintained twice-monthly visits to Sydney to consult and I have progressively reduced my visits to country centres. This continued until the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020 and since that time, I have cultivated new skills in telehealth assessments. I found these challenging at first but like anything, as one’s experience grows, one learns more work-arounds to deal with this new way of doing things. I suspect that after we come through COVID-19 it is likely that telehealth assessments will remain as they are particularly valuable for people in regional and remote areas.

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

Chris: Doctors in general and occupational physicians in particular, have such a wide field of practice to choose from. I believe starting in a general practice to get a good basic ground with patients and their work circumstances or, alternatively, working in a clinic where work-related injuries are treated with a component of assessment in the field is the best type of training. Once you identify your niche, you should go after it and if it proves elusive, for whatever reason, there will always be a rewarding compromise position somewhere out there.

AFOEM Policy & Advocacy Committee key priorities 

The AFOEM Policy & Advocacy Committee is currently developing a submission to the Australian Government's National Dust Disease Taskforce’s final round of consultation which focuses on its vision, strategies and priority areas for action. This submission led by AFOEM will be available on the RACP website once finalised. It will complement previous College submissions to the Australian National Dust Disease Taskforce: November 2019 submission and November 2020 submission

In addition, the AFOEM Policy & Advocacy Committee will soon launch a consultation with external stakeholders on a draft evidence-based discussion paper and a draft values and principles based approach paper it has developed as part of its work on improving health outcomes for patients who experience a work injury. This work is led by Dr Mary Wyatt FAFOEM with support from current and previous AFOEM Policy & Advocacy Committee members: Dr Beata Byok FAFOEM, Dr Mary Obele FAFOEM, Dr Robin Chase FAFOEM, Associate Professor Peter Connaughton FAFOEM and Dr David Beaumont FAFOEM.

Health Benefits of Good Work webinars 

The Health Benefits of Good Work (HBGW) Signatory Steering Group (SSG) continues to develop webinars on topical issues. 

On 15 April, the SSG delivered a webinar on 'Returning to the Workplace and COVID airborne transmission risks'. 

Chaired by Tatjana Jokic, JK Corporate Resourcing / SSG Committee Representative, with speakers Professor Dino Pisaniello FAIOH, FAIHS, FRACI, Director University of Adelaide Exposure Science and Health/School of Public Health and Dr Amanda Sillcock, AFOEM Fellow. 

The webinar covered the following areas:

  • review of the current state of knowledge about COVID-19 transmission in the workplace as employers plan or maintain/review their COVIDSafe RTW plans
  • understand how the COVID-19 virus works as an aerosol and why particular workplaces are more at risk from airborne transmission
  • review current studies/best practice approaches to occupational hygiene to control this risk.

There were 98 registrations for this webinar and a highly engaged audience with lots of questions for the presenters.

Save the date for the next HBGW webinar – 23 June 2021

The next webinar will focus on mental wellbeing across the life insurance and superannuation industry. 

Date: Wednesday, 23 June 2021
Time: 1.30pm to 2.30pm 

Stay tuned for more details.

RACP Foundation Research Awards

Applications for the 2022 RACP Foundation Research Awards will open on Monday, 3 May 2021. Upwards of 50 awards up to a total value of $2.5M are available across the different categories: Career Development Fellowships, Research Establishment Fellowships and Research Entry Scholarships

Applications for other award categories will open Tuesday, 1 June 2021. These include the RACP AFOEM Research Development Grant, RACP AFOEM Education Development Grant and AFOEM Registrar Travel Fellowship.

Most awards are open to Fellows and trainees across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. Please refer to the RACP Foundation webpages for information on specific eligibility requirements for each award. 

Ramazzini Prize presentations

Watch AFOEM trainees present during the 2021 RACP Congress Series.

The Ramazzini Prize is awarded annually for the best scientific paper related to occupational and environmental medicine presented by an AFOEM trainee. All AFOEM trainees must present a paper for the Ramazzini Prize at least once during their Advanced Training to meet eligibility requirements for Fellowship.

Presentations are to be held by live webinar on Saturday, 8 May 2021 from 10am to 12pm AEST. You must be registered for Congress to attend.

AFOEM examinations: Applications closing on 14 May

Applications opened on 3 May for all eligible trainees (who have met the training program requirements) for the September and November 2021 examinations.

Upcoming 2021 AFOEM examination dates are:

  • Stage A Written Examinations – Saturday, 11 September 2021
  • Stage B Written Examinations – Saturday, 11 and Sunday, 12 September 2021
  • Stage B Practical Examinations – Saturday, 13 November 2021 (an additional date of Sunday, 14 November 2021 may be added depending on the number of eligible candidates).

Applications will close at 5pm (AEST) on 14 May 2021. Any applications received after this closing time may not be accepted. Further information can be found on the examinations webpage

Please remember that you will need to have satisfactorily completed all requirements for the February to July 2021 training period by the relevant deadlines in order to be eligible. The College website provides more information. 

Advanced Training Curricula Renewal update

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2020 consultation on the proposed common learning, teaching and assessment (LTA) programs for Advanced Training (AT). Your feedback was used to refine the programs and ensure they are robust and appropriate.

The common LTA programs for AT have now been finalised.

The common LTA programs will establish a baseline for learning, teaching and assessment across all AT programs. As each specialty undertakes their program-specific curricula reviews, they will build on the common LTA programs to meet the needs of their specialty. 

This year, in collaboration with the Curriculum Advisory Group, we will continue to support the first six specialty groups to undertake the development process:

  • Cardiology (Adult Medicine)
  • Cardiology (Paediatrics & Child Health)
  • Gastroenterology
  • Geriatric Medicine
  • Nephrology
  • General Rehabilitation Medicine

More information about Advanced Training Curricula Renewal is available on our website.


RACP Congress 2021

What happens if there is a lockdown in your city due to COVID-19

In light of the recent Perth lockdown due to COVID-19 and ongoing uncertainty regarding local restrictions, we have made the difficult decision to shift the Perth program to a wholly virtual event.

We want to assure all RACP Congress 2021 attendees that plans are in place should there be a lockdown in any of the in-person cities. The possibility of this has always been part of the planning for RACP Congress, and the program has been designed to switch to a wholly virtual experience, if necessary. If you purchased a ticket to an in-person event, your existing registration automatically allows you full access to the entire Congress program so you can simply login via your OnAir app.

If you have purchased a ticket to attend an in-person day that needs to be cancelled, you will receive a full refund for the difference between the in-person and virtual ticket price. This may take up to two weeks to be refunded to the account from which your payment was made.

You can still register to attend virtually

If you have yet to register for RACP Congress 2021, but still want to attend, you can still purchase a virtual ticket. This will include access to the entire RACP Congress program as well as six months of access to all of the recorded sessions.

Register now

Share your experiences of completing your specialty training requirements

Researchers at Bond University want to hear about your experience completing your specialty requirements for Advanced Training via this short survey.

You are eligible to take part if you:

  • are currently undertaking your specialty training at an Australian or Aotearoa New Zealand specialist training college
  • have completed your specialty training at an Australian or Aotearoa New Zealand specialist training college in the past five years.

Participation in this survey is voluntary and should only take 10 minutes.

This survey has ethics approval from the Bond University Human Research Ethics Committee [HREC: PS00149].

Submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability

In April 2021, the RACP provided its submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability. Following consultation with members last year, the RACP has provided 35 recommendations to the Royal Commission that seek to improve health outcomes for people with a disability and their experience of the healthcare system. 

These include five areas of transformational change to the health and disability sectors:

  • ensuring a human-rights centres approach; reducing levels of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with a disability
  • providing person centred, integrative care
  • improving the National Disability Insurance Scheme
  • enhancing the systems which support the health and disability sectors.

The submission also focuses on the experience of specific population groups and provides recommendations to enhance healthcare for people with a disability across the lifespan. 

The submission can be viewed on the RACP Policy & Advocacy webpage

Contribute to the Clinical Ethics Online Learning Resource

Fellows, Advanced Trainees and subject matter experts are invited to express interest to join a Working Group for the development of the Clinical Ethics Online Learning Resource. The resource will be designed to educate and support Fellows and supervisors in building their own clinical ethics capacity and in conducting teaching and training sessions in clinical ethics for trainees. 

Find out more and apply now

For NSW members – the NSW Ministry of Health Your Training and Wellbeing Matters survey

The NSW Ministry of Health Your Training and Wellbeing Matters survey is an initiative of its Junior Medical Officer (JMO) Wellbeing and Support Plan. The 2021 survey will run from Monday, 26 April to Sunday, 16 May 2021. 

The survey will give all doctors working and/or training, their supervisors and support staff the opportunity to provide confidential feedback on what it’s like working and/or training in the NSW health system. This online survey will ask about your experiences in the position that you are currently in or as at 1 February 2021.

The results from this survey will provide valuable information to strengthen medical training and management, and assist in providing safe and supportive working environments.

There are three separate surveys: 

  • Doctors working and/or training – for interns, residents, registrars, doctors in accredited training positions or unaccredited positions and career medical officers
  • Supervisors of doctors training – for senior medical officers who have responsibility for doctors training.
  • JMO management and support staff – for JMO management and education support staff who spend more than 50 per cent of their time in activities involving the management and/or education of JMOs.

More information is available in the NSW Health factsheet

To participate in the survey please visit the NSW Health website

Pomegranate Health podcast

Ep69: Gendered Medicine – Funding and Research

This is the third and final part of our series on gendered medicine. We step back and look at the way that healthcare and research are funded. It’s been said that the health needs of women are undervalued by our existing fee-for-service model, down to individual item numbers in the Medicare Benefits Schedule. There is also evidence that diseases predominantly experienced by female patients receive less research investment. Is this blatant sexism or a symptom of structural imbalance? And what do we do about it?

Listen to podcast

Subscribe to email alerts or search for ‘Pomegranate Health’ in Apple PodcastsSpotifyCastbox, or any podcasting app.

Fellows of the RACP can claim CPD credits for listening and learning via MyCPD. For a transcript and further references please visit our website. 

RACP asks for timely clear action on preventive health

The development of the National Preventive Health Strategy 2021-2030 comes at a time when the need to address the imbalance between prevention and treatment and provide a coordinated national response that involves all systems could not be clearer. The draft strategy goes some way towards these goals, but significant gaps remain.

In its recent submission on the draft strategy, the College has asked the Government to:

  • provide greater detail on how the five per cent of the national health budget earmarked for prevention would be allocated
  • increase focus on work, employment and poverty as determinants of health
  • increase focus on the environmental determinants of health in an actionable way
  • include evidence-based approaches such as taxes and restrictions on junk food marketing to children
  • centre the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • acknowledge and make actionable measures to better address the needs of people with disabilities
  • assign specific responsibilities, accountabilities and milestones.

The upcoming Preventive Health Strategy must be designed, funded and implemented in a timely and actionable way if it is to lead to tangible, meaningful improvements in health outcomes for all Australians. 

Read our submission

Enrol in the new developing effective teaching skills QStream course

Fellows and trainees of all specialties are invited to enrol in this new QStream course, which has a mid-May start. The course is designed to provide practical strategies to help you enhance your teaching skills and effectively balance teaching with a busy workload.

You'll access in-depth case studies with questions that are sent directly to your inbox at spaced intervals over a three-week period. Each question takes just ten minutes to complete and participants are encouraged to discuss the case studies and share opinions with others through secure, online discussion forums.

The course is designed to enhance your knowledge in adult learning, provide practical strategies to incorporate effective teaching skills into day-to-day settings, and encourage self-reflection and peer discussion.

Digital health resources

Digital health resources have been developed and curated to assist Fellows and trainees to better understand digital health initiatives, including My Health Record, and provide opportunities for further learning and professional development.

Visit the digital health webpage to watch videos about telehealth, electronic prescribing, My Health Record and secure messaging.

Development of these resources has been in collaboration with the Australian Digital Health Agency, who are responsible for the delivery of Australia's National Digital Health Strategy. The Strategy's key pillars include driving innovation, education and workforce development, enhanced models of care, interoperability and data quality, medicines safety, My Health Record and secure messaging.

Webinar recording: Using health data for practice reflection

The Digital Health CRC kicked off a series of virtual events covering hot topics in the field of Practice Analytics on 21 April 2021. Please listen to the recording of the inaugural webinar ‘Using health data for practice reflection: Changing expectations on the role of data in professional development’. This webinar discussed the potential use of health data for practice reflection and professional development.

The panel included Anne Tonkin (Chair, Medical Board of Australia), John Wilson (President, Royal Australasian College of Physicians), Julian Archer (Executive General Manager for Education, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons) David Rankin (Director Clinical Governance and Informatics, Cabrini Health), Robert J. Birnbaum (Mass General Brigham, Harvard Medical School) and was chaired by Tim Shaw (Director of Research, Digital Health CRC). 

Expressions of Interest  

Check the Expressions of Interest page at any time, to find out if there are any opportunities that are of benefit to you. 

Career opportunities

For career opportunities, view all positions vacant 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):

AFOEM Executive Officer
Phone: +61 2 8076 6361

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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