AFPHM eBulletin – 15 December 2020

A message from your President

The last eBulletin for an amazing year for public health – phew! This has been a year where public health has shone, with an improving appreciation of what public health physicians do, and how our roles interact (but are different to) infectious disease physicians, field epidemiologists, mathematical modellers and others. There has been at least one public health physician in the media spotlight most days this year – strong, decisive, confident leaders of the public health response to the various threats Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand has experienced. Thank you.

I would like to draw your attention in this eBulletin to the COVID-19 update by President-elect Professor Jeanette Ward. She poses a number of questions for each of us to consider.

Much has needed to change in our training this year. National Training Days have moved to being held online. I chaired the second of these and I thought it was outstanding. Meeting face-to-face is really important to establish connections with the cohort of trainees, but the webinar format has lots of advantages, allowing equitable participation by trainees at little cost, drawing the best speakers from diverse locations and allowing a recording that can be viewed later. How we manage National Training Days in a future where travel is possible again will need careful consideration and consultation. The oral examination was delayed and has moved to a Zoom format to be held in March 2021. Full details are available on the College website.  

In 2021, Council has an exciting workplan across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, with a strong focus on implementation of the RACP Indigenous Strategic Framework to our training across both countries and advocacy for building the public health physician workforce. 

Finally, I’d like to wish you all a happy and peaceful festive season and I look forward to working with you in what I hope will be a more peaceful year in 2021. 

Professor Robyn Lucas
AFPHM President

A message from your President-elect

As Fellows and trainees will know, Professor Brendan Murphy, the highly-respected Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health (previously Chief Medical Officer) applauded the essential role of public health physicians in his remarks on 21 August 2020 to the Australian Senate Select Committee on COVID-19. This was vindication of our skills and expertise. On your behalf, the Faculty Council will maintain a clear line of sight to the National Cabinet’s new plan for Australia’s Public Health Capacity and COVID-19, agreed and announced on 26 June 2020. Under the plan developed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), six actions for state, territory and Commonwealth governments will improve long term sustainability of the public health workforce for the remainder of COVID-19 and beyond by, amongst other actions, reviewing the ongoing structure of the public health units, prioritising public health physician workforce capacity and considering options for developing a formal public health workforce training program.

Late in October 2020, the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) issued its updated Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) CDNA National Guidelines for Public Health Units. These guidelines have evolved considerably since the first version in January (how long ago that seems) and wrap up the key aspects of an immediate evidence-based public health response but are less instructive however on what happens in the aftermath. Once outbreak structures are stood down, we, as public health physicians, initiate evaluations of responses as recommended by Dalton and his colleagues who produced a structured framework for improving outbreak investigation audits in order to iron out any systematic glitches and prepare to be in better shape next time. If every outbreak investigation begins with the question “Why these people, at this time, in this place?”, then I believe the circumstances in which people live that contribute as social determinants could be top-of-mind in these audits. Social determinants include factors such as political power, economic security, geographic location and public policy itself. Some interesting insights are already appearing about pre-pandemic attributes of health systems and societies better able to withstand the arrival of SARS-CoV-2.  

Among the Australian public, anticipation builds for the arrival of a safe, effective vaccine. However, what are our obligations as system thinkers to articulate the primordial prevention now also necessary?  Because of the mode of transmission of SARS-Cov-2, overcrowded housing raises risk of exposure and also reduces likelihood of successful self-isolation or self-quarantine. Even the option of working from home is only feasible if you have dedicated space, equipment and affluent social capital. What would we say if we were to discover that remote Aboriginal community schools were no longer receiving soap supplies that were accessible as required previously as a part of the acute COVID response? How do we respond when focus turns towards the increased risk for low-income people or those with casual employment who make ends meet through multiple jobs which not only increase their risk of exposure but also the odds of super-spreading circumstances? How can we ensure that the policy levers, access to decision-makers and resources afforded Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander community-controlled primary healthcare services to respond seamlessly to the unique needs of each of their communities during this pandemic are sustained beyond it?  

Through our Policy & Advocacy Committee (FPAC), the Faculty is keen to raise greater attention on social determinants of communicable disease risk and adverse consequences. A vaccine will not be enough to assure equity, fairness and peace-of-mind against SAR-Cov-2. Please feel free to contact FPAC with your ideas for possible avenues to raise the importance of primordial prevention. Do so and, of course, I welcome any research, commentaries or journalism that you recommend we consider.

Professor Jeanette Ward
AFPHM President-elect

Seeking AFPHM Representatives for Committees

The Faculty is currently seeking Expressions of Interest for the Faculty Education Committee.

Regional Education Coordinators:

  • NSW or VIC Regional Education Coordinator
  • NT Regional Education Coordinator
  • TAS Regional Education Coordinator.

Please submit an Expression of Interest form and your CV to

Drug Policy Working Group Joint Review Selection Panel members requested

A Drug Policy Working Group is being formed that will jointly report to AFPHM Policy & Advocacy Committee and the Australasian Chapter of Addiction Medicine (AChAM) as it proceeds in its purpose to develop a position statement outlining a health-focused approach to drug policy by the College.

AFPHM have been asked to provide two members for this joint review selection panel that will also include two members from AChAM.

The review panel will review the applications received from an open EOI process that was promoted on the RACP website for the working group. 

For more details please contact

To apply, please submit your name, a brief explanation of why you would like to contribute and advise any conflict of interest to by Monday, 21 December 2020.

AFPHM Faculty awards 

AFPHM President’s Award for Outstanding Contribution – Trainee Commitment

Nominate an Advanced Trainee of the AFPHM for the AFPHM President’s Awards for Outstanding Contribution to recognise their notable contribution to the Faculty in trainee commitment.

Nominations close Monday, 1 February 2021.

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 RACP Congress 2021 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, 1 February 2021.

RACP Congress 2021

Redfern Oration

We are delighted to advise that as part of RACP Congress 2021, Dr Josephine Aumea Herman, Secretary of Health in the Cook Islands Government will deliver the Redfern Oration in Te Whanganui-a-a-Tara Wellington on Friday, 14 May 2021. Dr Herman is a physician with a research PhD, having studied medicine in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and at the University of Auckland. She is a volunteer with the organisation Doctors Assisting in South-Pacific Islands (DAISI) and is Vice-Chair of Pacific Heads of Health. In her official capacity she has been responsible for coordinating the government's response to the 2019 outbreak of dengue fever on the islands. She has been a vocal proponent of the need to preserve Cook Islands Māori.

With RACP Congress 2021 theme being Transformation: Adapting for the future, we look forward to hearing Doctor Herman speak about what it means for the Pacific and the Cook Islands, and the relation between the Pacific and Australia/Aotearoa New Zealand.

With the ability to attend RACP Congress 2021 either in person or virtually, it has never been easier to attend. To register or view the program, visit the RACP Congress 2021 website

Submission deadline for RACP Congress 2021 abstracts extended

The deadline for abstracts to be submitted for consideration for RACP Congress 2021 has been extended to 12 January 2021. Those of you wishing to submit in any of the categories available should visit the RACP Congress 2021 website for more details. 

Register now for the opportunity to support your charity of choice

Register now for the IMiA21 Virtual program containing the latest on research, treatment options and success stories from across the addiction medicine field.

Registrations received before midnight Thursday, 31 December 2020 go into the draw to be one of five to win the full value of their registration back as a donation to the charity of their choice.

More information available on the IMiA21 website.

RACP Quarterly Issue Three 2020

RACP Quarterly is our member magazine featuring healthcare and medical news.

In our last issue for 2020 we feature the incredibly worthy inaugural recipient of the new College Medal, Professor Douglas Bridge. We also feature Dr Matthew Wheeler, an Indigenous Health Scholarship recipient. 

COVID-19 related articles include: ‘Will the COVID-19 pandemic encourage a reflection on what is low-value clinical care?’ and ‘Telehealth transforming access to healthcare during COVID-19 and beyond’.   

Other highlights in this issue are ‘New recommendations to help stop early heart attacks for Indigenous Australians’, ‘Introducing effective pregnancy warning labels on alcohol products’ and ‘Natural killer’ cells may be the answer to treating Hepatitis B’.

Read RACP Quarterly Issue Three 2020 online now.

Access previous issues of RACP Quarterly on the RACP website.

A message from Dr Ben McConchie: The 2020 RACP Physician Training Survey is closing soon

Add your perspective to training settings

Thank you to everyone who has participated in the 2020 Physician Training Survey. Highly valuable feedback has been received so far. We are keeping the survey open a little longer to allow more trainees and educators time to share their perspective during this busy period. The survey closes Wednesday, 16 December 2020.

We use trainee and educator feedback to guide improvements to training environments. To protect respondent anonymity, we only communicate results when we meet response volume thresholds. The more responses we get, the more data we can use to promote positive change.

The anonymous survey can be completed via the personalised link in the email eligible participants received on Monday, 30 November 2020. If you didn’t receive this link or would like it resent, please contact Engine. For information about the survey, including confidentiality and how you could win an iPad, please visit the Physician Training Survey webpage.

The survey has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) – Concord Repatriation General Hospital of the Sydney Local Health District 2019/ETH12472. If you have any concerns or complaints about the conduct of the research study, please email the Executive Officer of the Ethics Committee or call +61 2 9767 5622.

Pomegranate Podcast: A new script for global public health

In episode 65, we present some provocative solutions to problems presented in the previous two stories. We heard about pharmaceutical patents and how embedded intellectual property law is in global trade relations. There’s a fundamental assumption that innovation occurs thanks to the vigour of the private sector and the plucky entrepreneur. It’s even been said that financialised capitalism is "the greatest engine of progress ever seen".

But the reality is that shiny smartphones and targeted drugs wouldn’t exist without massive government spending on research. It’s public money that funds the riskiest stages of development, before private enterprise takes these products to market with the benefit of monopoly pricing. Dr Owain Williams and Associate Professor Peter Hill argue that states can demand more control over the outputs and pricing of drug and vaccine research and that the current intellectual property regime is not the only way to stimulate innovation.

In the second part of this episode, Associate Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott talks about the lessons learned and not learned from pandemic modelling in past years. He also makes the case for establishing an Australian Centre for Disease Control with standalone jurisdiction, to cut through some of the conflict we’ve seen in recent months between state and federal leaders.


Dr Owain Williams (University of Leeds)
Associate Professor Peter Hill AFPHM (University of Queensland)
Associate Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott (University of Sydney, United States Studies Centre)

Claim CPD credits

RACP Fellows can claim CPD credits via MyCPD for listening to this episode and reading the resources available on the webpage. To be the first to find out about the latest Pomegranate Health episodes, subscribe today in Apple PodcastsSpotify, any Android podcasting app. You can also join our email alerts list to remain updated with future podcasts.

Listen now

RACP Congress 2020 online learning series

RACP Congress 2020 has been the first entirely digital RACP Congress, free for members. This year’s Congress has provided members with learning opportunities while earning CPD credits and connecting in new ways, through webinars, livestreams and podcasts. The RACP Congress 2020 Online Series has been made available with all sessions available via the Congress Online Learning platform until Friday, 18 December 2020.

Access now

Introducing our new online Heritage Centre

To celebrate our College’s rich history, we have developed a Heritage Centre on the website. The ‘Our heritage’ webpage brings together the revamped College Roll, the first release of a College timeline and the History of Medicine Library.

College Roll

The College Roll celebrates the stories and achievements of our inspiring Fellows. We encourage retired and Life Fellows, aged 70 years or older, to share your story. We also accept biography or obituary submissions on behalf of deceased Fellows.

We encourage everyone to visit the College Roll and read about the achievements of our esteemed physicians, their stories and their impact on medicine, communities and patients.

College timeline

Discover the history of the College through the new College timeline. Vision, dedication and passion — explore the College’s history over the years, the evolution of medicine and the role of our physicians.

Can you add to our timeline? We encourage members to submit a timeline entry that you think is of significance.

History of Medicine Library

Our History of Medicine Library, located at our head office in Sydney, has a leading collection of medical history items from Australasia and around the world.

The College established the Library in 1938 as a clinical library. The focus of the library changed to medical history in the mid-1950s. The Library continues to grow through the contributions of our College members. The Library holds over 30,000 medical history items.

While the library is currently closed due to COVID-19 you can browse the Library’s catalogue online.

Visit the Heritage Centre

Australian Medical Council – Good Medical Practice: Professionalism, Ethics and Law

The Australian Medical Council (AMC) is in the process of reviewing its publication Good Medical Practice: Professionalism, Ethics and Law which was written as a guide for doctors on issues surrounding professional, ethical and legal responsibilities they might come across.

The AMC is currently inviting organisations with an interest in professional medical practice and regulation of the medical profession to collaborate with them on this review. If you're interested in being involved, the Good Medical Practice Project Team can be contacted at the AMC:

New online course: Chronic breathlessness in advanced illness

Equip yourself with the knowledge you need to better identify, assess and manage chronic breathlessness in advanced illness through our new online course. Watch this video from the online course which explores something many of us find challenging: answering sensitively and truthfully when a patient wants to know how they’re going to die.

AI for healthcare webinar now on Medflix

Watch this engaging webinar where Dr Olivier Salvado, Head of Imaging and Computer Vision at CSIRO, presents on the opportunities and challenges for the medical application of artificial intelligence (AI) and reviews the main AI methods in the medical context. Hosted by Associate Professor Clair Sullivan FRACP, the webinar explores why the deployment of AI technologies in healthcare is lagging and highlights the current challenges that hinder AI deployment into clinics.

Antimicrobial Stewardship Clinical Care Standard

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has released the revised Antimicrobial Stewardship Clinical Care Standard, which has been endorsed by the RACP.

The Standard was first published in 2014 and revised in 2020 and has eight quality statements and a set of indicators. It is used by health service organisations as part of their antimicrobial stewardship programs, as required by the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards.

Australian Institute of Health Innovation – COVID-19 and future crisis preparedness in healthcare

The Australian Institute of Health Innovation (AIHI), Macquarie University, is pleased to announce the release of five new domestic PhD scholarships, focusing on research into COVID-19 and health system crisis planning.

With a track record of delivering internationally significant research, AIHI leads in understanding responses to the pandemic along with preparing for future health crises. The AIHI Directors, Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite, Professor Johanna Westbrook and Professor Enrico Coiera, are seeking suitably qualified candidates with pioneering ideas for research in this field. 

Find out more

Climate and Health Alliance survey

This survey is run by the Climate and Health Alliance in collaboration with Monash University and open to all RACP Adult Medicine Division and Chapter members and members of the Faculties of Public Health Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Rehabilitation Medicine based in Australia. 

The survey is being sent to health professionals across Australia and is assessing their:

  • views on climate change as a human health issue
  • willingness and ability to communicate the health impacts of climate change.

We encourage you to participate in the survey – regardless of the focus of your work – because your participation will help us understand our members' needs and interests in this area.

The survey is confidential, administered online, and open until Thursday, 17 December 2020, 12pm (AEDT). The survey should take approximately 25 minutes to complete. If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the Climate and Health Alliance at

Go to survey 

Update on telehealth in Australia

On 27 November 2020, the Commonwealth Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt announced that telehealth will become a permanent part of the Medicare system in Australia. While this announcement is welcome news, it does not necessarily resolve the issue of what the final form of the new permanent telehealth items in the MBS will be. This is why the College has been proactively engaging with the Department of Health, and will continue to do so, to ensure that the final form of these items is properly aligned to the clinical needs of our members and their patients.

Inviting nominees for potential vacancies on the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Council and Principal Committees 2021-2024 triennium

Nominations are being sought from people with appropriate expertise to participate on the NHMRC Council and Principal Committees for the 2021-2024 triennium. Nominees should be exceptional leaders who can advise the government on health and medical research (HMR). Nominees should have demonstrated knowledge and experience of the breadth of HMR in Australia and be recognised as a leader in their field.

Please note that successful candidates would be appointed by the NHMRC in an individual capacity and not as a representative of the College.

Nominations should be provided directly to the NHMRC by Sunday, 31 January 2021. Details on how to do this can be found on the NHMRC website.

National Obesity Strategy – consultation report

Despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Obesity Strategy working group has recently released a report from an extensive national public consultation. The report summarises the main themes and ideas arising from the consultation and discusses key areas of the consultation paper that were supported by 1,380 survey responses, 35 stand-alone submissions and 604 Australians who participated in community events.

The findings of the consultation on the forthcoming strategy show strong public and stakeholder support for a range of measures to promote the health and wellbeing of Australians. These include implementing protections against the marketing of unhealthy food and drinks and using price levers to increase affordability of healthy food and increase prices of processed foods.

The results of the consultation clearly indicate that Australians want significant, specific and well-resourced government action on obesity. Such action needs to be guided by a comprehensive strategy to tackle the commercial drivers of obesity and ill-health. This and other findings, such as a clear focus on population-level systemic intervention, the demands for tailored efforts for priority groups and the need to avoid stigma, are closely aligned with the RACP submission to the consultation.

The full report and the summary report from the consultation are available. The final draft of the strategy is expected to be considered by Health Ministers in early 2021. 

Useful AFPHM training resources

A reminder to all AFPHM trainees, the following resources are available for your training:

Other resources you may be interested in, include:

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. 

Events and conferences

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.

Career opportunities

For career opportunities, please see the College website to view all medical positions vacant.

AFPHM contact details

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

AFPHM Faculty enquiries (including Council and committees):

Melanie Matthews, Executive Officer
Phone: +61 2 9256 9622

AFPHM Education and Training enquiries:
Education Officer
Phone: +61 2 8247 6286

AFPHM Oral Examination enquiries:
Examination Coordinator, Assessment and Selection Unit
Phone: +61 2 9256 9681

AFPHM training site accreditation inquiries:
Site Accreditation Unit

Phone: +61 2 9256 9674

AFPHM CPD enquiries:
Office of the Dean (CPD)
Phone: +61 2 8247 6285

AFPHM Aotearoa New Zealand enquiries:
RACP Aotearoa New Zealand Office
Phone: +64 4 472 6713
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