AFOEM eBulletin – 5 March 2021
A message from your President
Greetings from a lockdown-free Melbourne after our recent five-day lockdown prompted by another escape of the virus from hotel quarantine. Fortunately, the ramped-up contact tracing and quarantine system was able to successfully ring fence this outbreak and keep community transmission under control at a very early stage. Both of our countries have experienced similar recent escapes and it has become very clear that aerosol transmission in the hotel environment has been increasing in importance as an exposure pathway. This has prompted a variety of reviews and a recent National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) round table in which occupational and environmental physicians (OEPs) have played a prominent role. It shows the value of having generic skills in hazard assessment and control which can be applied to help manage novel exposures.
The COVID-19 vaccine roll out is now up and running in both Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. From the workplace perspective, workers in quarantine, front line healthcare, borders and in aged care are being given high priority for obvious reasons. In an environment of considerable misleading information causing confusion in the community and increasing ‘vaccine hesitancy’, AFOEM Fellows and trainees have an important role to play in maximising vaccination rates. There are many uncertainties with the current vaccines, such as the length of time immunity will last, how much they will reduce transmission and differences in effectiveness in different demographic groups, but the evidence is very clear that all vaccines are very effective in reducing death and serious illness and help to take pressure off our healthcare systems. There are also some difficult questions to be addressed within the workplace context, such as whether workplaces can mandate their employees to be vaccinated. In times of uncertainty and where the evidence is evolving quickly, we can act as a ‘trusted source’ of accurate information in those organisations and workplaces where we have established connections.
To assist our Fellows and trainees in providing advice about vaccines in workplaces, AFOEM is organising a webinar to address the workplace aspects of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout from which we plan to develop a set of Q&As to publish on the AFOEM webpage. If you have some pressing questions you would like the webinar to address, please send these to the AFOEM Executive Officer, Lisa Helson, at AFOEM@racp.edu.au.
The AFOEM Policy & Advocacy Committee (FPAC) met last week under the able stewardship of the FPAC Chair, Dr Robin Chase, to kick start our policy and advocacy activities for 2021. The COVID-19 issue and vaccine rollout was a major topic of discussion and highlighted the need for AFOEM to be providing guidance to our Fellows and trainees on this important issue. Hence the webinar and Q&A referred to above. The National Silicosis Taskforce is also moving into its final stages, with its plan to complete its activities, including the establishment of a national occupational lung disease registry by the middle of the year. This has been a critically important issue and AFOEM has been at the forefront of advocacy to get this onto the national agenda and develop a regulatory, surveillance and clinical framework to ensure this type of occupational disease epidemic does not occur again. Another key issue discussed by FPAC related to progress with our ‘It Pays to Care’ program to reduce the burden of poor return to work outcomes.
The Health Benefits of Good Work (HBGW) program is also off to a quick start in 2021. A webinar on ‘Return to the Workplace and COVID airborne transmission risks’ is being organised for Thursday, 15 April, with guest speaker Professor Dino Pisaniello, one of our colleagues from the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists. Another key issue for the HBGW signatories group is mental health in the workplace and this will be a major theme in webinars to be held later in the year.
The 2021 RACP Congress is fast approaching and the AFOEM content has now been finalised. This will be a great opportunity to maintain some connection with our AFOEM colleagues and others in the RACP, as it is being held across different cities on different days with a mix of in-person content for people in each city on certain days and virtual content for the rest of the program. The Ramazzini presentations will also be held during Congress and I’d like to encourage everyone to register and support our trainees in this very important part of their training program. And of course, you do not want to miss Professor Michael Shanahan’s Ferguson-Glass Oration which will be held on Saturday, 2 May in Adelaide.
Professor Malcolm Sim
AFOEM Fellows interview series
This series provides insight into the careers of retired and actively serving physicians in occupational medicine. On this occasion I had the pleasure and privilege to meet with Dr Robin Chase, Chair, AFOEM Policy & Advocacy Committee.
Dr Farhan Shahzad, Consultant Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Sydney
An interview with Dr Robin Chase
Farhan: Thanks for joining us, Robin. Please tell us about yourself, your life training and how you developed an interest in occupational medicine.
Robin: I was born in England in 1955 and my parents came across to Australia when I was two years old. I grew up on a housing commission estate, north-east of Adelaide. My father died when I was 10 and my mother worked in a car wrecking yard whilst I was in high school. In my first year Gough Whitlam brought in free university, so I got into the Adelaide Medical School in 1974. When I was in my third year, I joined the Navy. They paid me a wage as a midshipman from the fourth to sixth year then paid me the salary of a sublieutenant in my intern year. I went into the Navy in 1981 for five years. It was in the Navy that I developed an interest in occupational medicine. In those days, the Navy was largely just exercising so most of the injuries we had in the sailors were sporting injuries and motorbike accidents.
Whilst at sea, I served on a destroyer and travelled to Israel with a heavy landing craft taking equipment over to Israel and to collect people. I was Senior Medical Officer of Surgery at HMAS Penguin for a while. My interest in occupational medicine grew which moved me away from surgery. I decided that I didn't want to become a surgeon. Now, there's a very odd juxtaposition with that too because when I was Senior Medical Officer of Surgery, there was a hand surgeon named Don Faithful. He actually wrote a paper and coined the term “RSI” in the late 70s. Whilst I was in the Navy, I wrote a paper called, 'Policies and Protocols for the Prevention of RSI' in the Operators of the Royal Australian Navy Microcomputer Network in 1981 or '82.
I left the Navy and did a year at Sydney University at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine – I met Ann Long there as she ran the course. After that, I went into private practice in Bondi Junction. I worked at the Workers Health Centre which is a Trade Union organisation and also in the emergency department at St Vincent's Hospital to gain some experience in general medicine. There was a job at the Royal Adelaide Hospital for an occupational health registrar. Leon Le Lou was the Director and I became his sole registrar. I gained exposure to hospital occupational medicine including Hepatitis B immunisations, needle stick injuries and policies. Both Leon and I were on the Radiation Control Committee which covered various health facilities in Adelaide. Back injuries in nurses probably took up most of our time and it was there I found my interest in pain. I did some lecturing at the Elton Mayo School of Management which was part of Uni SA. I then sat my exams and passed my Fellowship. After two years, I moved back to Sydney and went into private practice for three or four years which was strictly a commercial organisation. I recruited some of the GPs who had an interest in seeing work injuries and wanted to go out and visit employers.
Farhan: You were given an Honorary Fellowship from the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, were AFOEM President between 2010 and 2012. You were also Chair of the Faculty Policy & Advocacy Committee, have an Order of Australia and I have had the pleasure of working with you in the Employment Poverty and Health Benefits Group. Where do you see the Faculty in the future? Do you have a message for trainees and Fellows?
Robin: You've got to have some skills with treatment, in assessing workplaces and in negotiation. You've got to get out there and speak with employers and there's lots of different ways of doing that. It's not for the health of the Faculty but for the health of the workers, their families and the community. Don't take up the crusades that aren't going to work or that are going nowhere.
For trainees, registrars and junior Fellows – get active with the Faculty. My recommendation is get the experience, have a goal which will improve things and get involved with the Faculty.
Health Benefits of Good Work webinar – save the date
Title: Return to the workplace and COVID airborne transmission risks
Date: Thursday, 15 April 2021
Time: 1pm to 2pm (AEST)
- Tatjana Jokic, JK Corporate Resourcing / SSG Committee Representative
- Professor Dino Pisaniello FAIOH, FAIHS, FRACI, Director University of Adelaide Exposure Science and Health/School of Public Health
- TBC AFOEM Fellow
- Review of the current state of knowledge about COVID-19 transmission in the workplace as employers plan or maintain/review their COVIDSafe return to work (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.
Registrations for this webinar will open soon.
RACP Congress 2021 is proud to announce Dr Monkol Lek will be speaking about genetic discovery and translation in neuromuscular diseases in Sydney this year.
Dr Lek has three undergraduate degrees in computer engineering, bioinformatics and physiology from the University of New South Wales. He has worked on some of the largest human genetics projects, including playing a lead role in the Exome Aggregation Consortium (ExAC) project. He also had an opportunity to work on using cutting-edge genomic technologies to improve the diagnosis rate of rare neuromuscular diseases, using a cohort from Australia, and played a leadership role in the Broad Center of Mendelian. In 2018, he started his own lab in Yale as an Assistant Professor, with the goal to also work on translating genetic discoveries into patient specific genetic therapies.
Find out more about Dr Lek and our other speakers, visit the RACP Congress 2021 website.
Frontline border protection, quarantine, aged and healthcare workers began receiving the first COVID-19 vaccines in Australia on 21 February 2021. The RACP welcomed the commencement of the vaccination program as an incredible achievement in Australia’s battle against the global COVID-19 pandemic.
RACP President Professor John Wilson AM said “Australia is in this position today thanks to the hard work of our frontline workers, state and federal governments, and the everyday Australians who have been doing the right thing and following the advice of health experts.”
Professor Wilson noted that the vaccines being rolled out have been rigorously assessed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and Australians should have confidence in the vaccines.
He noted that the RACP is glad to see essential healthcare workers, hotel quarantine workers and aged care and disability residents and workers at the top of the priority list when it comes to getting vaccinated. These groups are at high-risk of contracting the virus and should be prioritised.
Professor Wilson’s comments were reported in 147 online news articles and two radio interviews which were broadcast 178 times across Australia.
The RACP is continuing to support our members during the vaccine rollout through:
Register for the COVID-19 Vaccine Webinar
Join us on Wednesday, 10 March from 6pm to 7.30pm NZDT / 4pm to 5.30pm AEDT for the Aotearoa New Zealand focused session of the COVID-19 Vaccination Series brought to you by RACP and the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine (NZCPHM).
With a focus on the Aotearoa New Zealand COVID-19 vaccinations rollout across the community, this session will also explore up-to-the-minute news, research and further details of the vaccine.
Due to the impact of COVID-19 we can confirm that it’s not mandatory for Fellows to record Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities in MyCPD for 2020, although it’s encouraged where possible.
Your 2020 MyCPD record will remain open until mid-April if you wish to record your activities retrospectively. This extension (from the usual 31 March deadline) will be applied to allow for the Easter holidays. After the extension expires in mid-April, a 2020 MyCPD certificate of completion will be emailed to those who have recorded a minimum of 100 recognised credits.
The Medical Board of Australia and The Medical Council of New Zealand have decided that medical practitioners will need to resume meeting CPD requirements from 2021. We acknowledge the complexity of your changed environment and are here to support you in completing valuable and achievable CPD this year.
Please review the 2021 MyCPD framework to ensure you are familiar with your requirements and explore the College’s CPD resources in the MyCPD Interactive Handbook and the Online Learning Resources platform.
As always, please don’t hesitate to contact the CPD Team if you have any questions or feedback – we’re here to help.
AU: 1300 697 227 or MyCPD@racp.edu.au
AoNZ: +64 4 460 8122 or MyCPD@racp.org.nz
Log in to MyCPD
The RACP is hosting a webinar on Thursday, 11 March 2021, 4.30pm to 5.30pm (AEDT) / 6.30pm to 7.30pm (NZDT).
This webinar will explore the key concept and recommendations contained in the recently released RACP statement on Indigenous child health in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. This is an opportunity for participants to ask questions and explore the next steps in healthcare for Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori children.
Speakers will include:
We encourage RACP members, health professionals and any interested individuals to attend and share this event widely with your networks.
It's important to take time away from your daily life to reflect on your career, learn new skills and build connections with your peers. To help you achieve these goals, you're invited to the Aotearoa New Zealand Trainees’ Day. Held on Rāhoroi Poutū-te-rangi | Saturday, 27 March at the Millennium Hotel in Rotorua. You'll hear from a diverse range of speakers and receive invaluable networking opportunities. Attendance costs may even be reimbursed – ask us how.
Associate Professor Rinki Murphy works at the University of Auckland and is a Diabetologist at Auckland District Health Board and Counties Manukau Health. Her session 'Why do research as a clinical trainee?' will outline various opportunities to experience different types of health research during specialist medical training which may motivate you to embark on an academic clinical career.
Supervisors, please encourage trainees to attend the Aotearoa New Zealand Trainees' Day.
Watch the video to hear what Associate Professor Murphy has to say about why you should attend this important event.
Introduction to Medicare compliance, record keeping and support webinar
You are invited to a Medicare webinar on Wednesday, 17 March 2021 from 6.30pm (AEDT) / 8.30pm (NZDT) by the Medicare Benefits Integrity and Digital Health Division. The webinar will cover how to meet compliance standards and record-keeping, and how to best utilise support services for Medicare. This webinar will not be available as a recording.
- introduction to the overarching compliance approach of the Division
- case studies (de-identified)
- record-keeping requirements
- accessing support services.
You're invited to an interactive webinar on Tuesday, 16 March from 6pm (AEDT) / 8pm (NZDT). Associate Professor Clair Sullivan FRACP, Dr Olivier Salvado and Professor Enrico Coiera will answer your questions as they cover key topics including:
- implementing artificial intelligence (AI) models into clinical practice
- privacy issues
- other technical and cultural challenges of AI.
Access the RACP’s extensive collection of powerful and engaging educational videos all in one place. Browse the Medflix video library for videos covering a range of clinical and professional topics, including the VicFEAT and Continuing Education series, as well as all the videos from our online courses.
In the past decade the number of Australians living with obesity has more than doubled from 2.7 million in 2007-08 to over six million people today. We now have 900,000 more Australians living with obesity. Obesity affects all sections of society, but rates are higher in those with relative socio-economic disadvantage and lower levels of educational attainment, those living in regional and remote areas, and among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
It is the time to do something significant about an issue that, one way or another, affects everyone. It has become one of Australia’s most important equity challenges and most expensive preventable national health problems. New clinical guidelines are an essential step towards making health professionals up to date with the best practice approaches to dealing with obesity.
On World Obesity Day 2021, the College and other key medical, specialist and consumer bodies issued a call for official clinical guidelines on how to assess, help and manage people with obesity. See the news section of the RACP website for more on this important initiative.
Date: Tuesday, 16 March 2021
Time: 5pm to 6pm (AEDT) / 7pm to 8pm (NZDT).
As physicians act to reduce low-value care through implementing Evolve and Choosing Wisely recommendations, they must take care that these recommendations do not increase existing inequities for Māori.
Join Professor David Tipene-Leach and Dr Derek Sherwood as they discuss key findings from the Choosing Wisely Means Choosing Equity report, including why considering equity in this context is so important and messages for physicians on their role in reducing healthcare inequities.
Updating our skills in psychiatry
The Committee of Chairs of the Medical Colleges of Victoria are hosting a webinar on updating our skills in psychiatry
on Saturday, 27 March. You are invited to attend and engage with leading experts in the field who will be presenting on anxiety, depression, addiction issues, psychiatry in the elderly including an update from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.
All members are encouraged to register for the webinar
, which is hosted by the RACP Victorian Regional Committee.
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.
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.
For career opportunities, view all positions vacant on the RACP website.
AFOEM contact details
(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: