New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory - May 2019

Image 1 - chairIt has been a busy start to 2019, especially as we have completed the NSW State Election and the Federal Election Statement has been distributed to the major parties. The key themes  include physicians and trainees’ wellbeing and workplace culture, occupational lung disease with recent increases in accelerated silicosis, minimising the harms from drug and alcohol consumption and high value, high quality patient care as part of the EVOLVE program developed by RACP. 

Certainly, physician's and trainees’ wellbeing continues to be at the forefront of most colleagues’ concerns.  The committee will continue to work closely with the College, the government and other stakeholders to reinforce this important issue.  We are mindful of the current level of stress on the trainees and supervisors alike and we will strive to push the authorities to recognise this and provide resources to support this ongoing challenge.  As the College looks towards a new curriculum for both basic and advanced trainees in the next few years, this will hopefully be coupled with an opportunity to tackle the current deficiencies in the system. 

The committee has contributed to several policy statements and position statements including:

  • inquiry into sleep health awareness in Australia
  • antibiotic awareness
  • pill testing
  • Australian Institute of Health
  • welfare national primary healthcare data asset consultation. 

We have written to the Premier welcoming early closure of the Real Bodies Exhibition, a letter into the inquiry to the drug ‘ice’ along with AChAM/AFPHM letter on pill testing and most recently guidelines for music festivals.

The work plan for the regional committee has been finalised and we will strive to meet our targets over the next two years. The goals outlined in the Strategic Plan relate to six domains:

  1. member experience
  2. education and professional development
  3. career and workforce
  4. research and leadership
  5. advocacy and influence
  6. effective and sustainable College

We continue to hold various training and educational events in both Canberra and Sydney.  The November New Fellows' Forum was well attended with almost 40 attendees. We had robust discussions on life as a new Fellow, how to get started in private practice, overseas fellowships, a career in education, making it all work – MSF, public and private and academic medicine.  There was also a workshop held in Canberra in November discussing the health benefits of good work,  poly-fluoroalkyl substances, history and management in Australia, mindfulness and movement.

We would like to congratulate Dr Karen Waller who was awarded the NSW/ACT Region Trainee Research Award in the field of adult medicine. Dr Waller’s abstract was on ‘a systematic review and meta-analysis of the residual risk of blood borne virus infection when Australian organ donor referrals test negative’. We continue to encourage all trainees, from adult medicine and paediatrics to submit their abstracts for this competitive award.

The NSW/ACT Regional Committee have exciting events planned for 2019 and look forward to continuing to increase the value and relevance of membership to Fellows and trainees throughout NSW and ACT.  Please write to us at and let us know the issues you wish us to address in 2019.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Dr Adrian Lee BSc (Med), MBBS, FRACP, AM
Chair, NSW/ACT Regional Committee

NSW Trainees' Committee Co-Chairs message

As a representative body for all basic and advanced trainees, the NSW/ACT Trainees’ Committee has continued to advocate for quality training opportunities, fair assessment processes and transparency regarding membership fees. On 9 March the NSW/ACT Trainees Committee held the highly successful basic training orientation event, with an enthusiastic turnout from both pediatric and adult trainees. Our engaging speakers explored expectations during basic training, assessment/examination requirements and expert tips on achieving a healthy work-life balance.

Our focus for the next few months is to improve communication and feedback between trainees and the College. We will also support trainees through a number of upcoming events, including:

  • exams and wellbeing forum
  • paediatric AT orientation
  • private practice forum.

Further details regarding these events will be available on the RACP Events webpage shortly. The NSW/ACT Trainees’ Committee is keen to represent all trainees and welcomes feedback, comments and queries via email.

Dr David Martens
Adult Medicine
Co-Chair – NSW/ACT Trainees’ Committee

Dr Aimee Wiseman
Paediatric Medicine
Co-Chair – NSW/ACT Trainees’ Committee

The rise of artificial intelligence in medicine

Artificial Intelligence Robodoctor - GettyImages-983942394

WHEN: Wednesday, 29 May
WHERE: Govenor Macquarie Tower
ADDRESS: 1 Farrer Place, Sydney NSW 
TIME: 6pm - 8pm
RSVP: By Friday, 17 May via our online registration


To whet your appetite for an upcoming evening of discussion of artificial intelligence (AI) in medicine on Wednesday, 29 May, let’s briefly discuss the first candidates for AI disruption. We are being bombarded by the hype of artificial intelligence and its widespread applications, but machine learning will increasingly disrupt medicine, starting with the most digital and working its way out.

Radiology is already completely digital (in that its content is all ones and zeros) therefore able to be used as input to a machine learning system. AI algorithms are being taught to detect stroke and vascular disease (among others) with greater speed and accuracy than its human counterparts, though initially in a relatively narrow scope. What is needed is a large enough dataset to allow the algorithms to learn the immense number of possibilities and the wide range of normal and it is likely the applicability of such systems will grow significantly over time.

The next field to be affected is pathology, with its slides now able to be completely digitised. Again, machine learning algorithms can be ‘taught’ to detect and grade abnormalities. Initially, these are in a narrow scope and as an assistant to the pathologist, but, as for radiology, this will enlarge in its sphere of applicability.

Similarly, dermatology, largely based on visual inspection of a skin lesion or rash, is digitisable; a digital photograph of a lesion is all that is needed. It can then be fed into a machine-learning-algorithm which can learn to identify benign and malignant skin conditions. Gradually, as the datasets are expanded, these will be able to correctly identify a rash or rare skin disease in a fraction of the time.

Clinical medicine is the final frontier. The data is less complete and digital, but there are ways to obtain more comprehensive data and increase its completeness to ‘teach’ a virtual physician assistant to take a comprehensive history and form a differential diagnosis.

Register today to join us in Sydney on Wednesday, 29 May at this not-to-be-missed event. Video and audio conferencing available for those who are unable to attend.

$6 million funding for palliative care in the ACT

The Clare Holland House in the ACT has won a sizable federal, territory and philanthropic grant recently of six million dollars for ongoing costs to expand their specialist palliative care services. This is a huge achievement and plug for the Calvary Bruce Public Hospital, which provides community specialist palliative care services from Clare Holland House on the Barton campus.

The House supports patients within the ACT and surrounding areas in NSW and serves a total population of 700,000 with only 19 inpatient beds at present. Operating with extremely inadequate amount of resources, a very committed group of individuals and organisations lobbied to increase the bed numbers by up to 12 beds, rooms for multidisciplinary clinics and a research and education unit which will help to provide clinical, education and transitional research.

The injection of funds will help Clare Holland House become a centre of excellence and regional hub in providing quality, evidence-based palliative care to the growing population in the ACT and NSW. It enables the House to:

  • increase the amount of specialists from three to five full-time staff
  • provide training facilities to Australian and overseas clinicians – especially those from the Asia-Pacific region
  • help patients with life-limiting illnesses in the region to live their lives to the fullest with dignity and comfort.

The funds are made up of $4 million from the Federal Government, $2 million from the Snow Foundation and all ongoing costs from the ACT Territory government.

Key contributors to this win:

  • Mr Richard White AM – Philanthropist
  • Mr Terry Snow, Mr Stephen Byron and Ms Georgina Byron from the Snow Foundation
  • Mr Michael Moore - Former Minister of Health ACT
  • Mr Greg Hunt – Federal Minister of Health
  • Ms Meegan Fitzharris - ACT Health Minister
  • Dr Suharsha Kanathigoda – Director of Palliative Care - Calvary/Clare Holland House ACT and RACP NSW/ACT Regional Committee Deputy Chair member.

Read more information in this article by the Canberra Times.

palliative care

Featured from left to right: Stephen Byron, Meegan Fitzharris, Suharsha Kanathigoda, Zed Sselja – Senator representing Greg Hunt and Georgina Byron

Alcohol use in pregnancy and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Australia

Holding-Stomach-PregnancyMembers recently participated in a 'very informative and excellent presentation' on alcohol use in pregnancy and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Australia's leading experts, Professor Elizabeth Elliot and Dr Marcel Zimmet talked about some of their more challenging cases for diagnosis, management and how they approach diagnosis using the Australian Guide.

Professor Elizabeth Elliott works in Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Sydney. FASD has been her research focus for nearly 20 years, including in remote Aboriginal communities and pregnancy cohorts. Dr Marcel Zimmet is a Sydney developmental Paediatrician. He is the Staff Specialist for the FASD Service at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, and Consultant Paediatrician at Royal Far West Health Service.

If you have any questions about FASD, you can contact Professor Elliott and Dr Zimmet directly via the FASD HUB.  The hub provides a wide range of information including education resources for health professionals. The committee will be hosting several topical talks like this one in 2019. Stay tuned for these upcoming events and dates.

Improvement science workshop

Every year, the RACP in collaboration with The Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC), hold an informative and thought-provoking workshop for advanced trainees, and this year was no different.

Cathy Vinters from the CEC ran the two-day improvement science workshop for a selected group of nine advanced trainees and clinical nurse consultants. 

As Program Lead, Quality Improvement Academy at the CEC, Cathy has been coordinating the improvement science workshop since it began eight years ago.

Cohort 8. jpg
Cohort 8: Anna Mullins, Nadia Schmidt Sotomayor, Cathy Vinters, Dannielle Gregson, Patricia Everitt, Jake Williams, Kwee Bee Lindrea, Mani Singla, Leesa Giang, Abhijeet Singla

The workshop offered trainees an opportunity to develop tools to improve patient outcomes and learn why quality improvement is needed and how to improve patient safety.  

Trainees undertake projects in their own workplace, with a chance to implement what they have learnt. The process equips them with the tools to strengthen leadership skills and present their project outcomes to an expert panel next year. 

This years’ projects include:

  • reducing retinopathy of prematurity
  • decreasing the use of antibiotics in neonates
  • increasing appropriate antibiotic use in elective colorectal surgical patients
  • improving handover on paediatric wards
  • improving advanced care planning in paediatrics
  • decreasing antipsychotic use in geriatric patients.

Cathy Vinters and Professor Kim Oates
Cathy Vinters and Professor Kim Oates                              

Cathy Vinters and Bernadette King
Cathy Vinters and Bernadette King

Ms. Bernadette King lent her expertise in identifying the scope and planning of the trainee’s projects. Ms. King is the Senior Manager, Team Culture & Communication and Program Lead for the End of Life Program at the CEC. She has a proven track record in leading project development and successful large-scale implementation.

Professor Kim Oates joined the workshop as a paediatric expert who has been the Head of Child Development, Child Protection, Children’s Assessment Centre, Director of Medical Services and Chief Executive of Westmead Children’s Hospital. Professor Oates kindly presented on the importance and skills of effective leadership, its impact on patient care and the importance of the patient, family and carer’s voice in everything we do.

We want to take this opportunity to thank Cathy for her contribution to the Improvement Science Program. Her leadership and mentorship to trainees throughout the years has been invaluable and appreciated by the RACP.

Financial sessions to help you understand and protect your money and wealth

     William Buck Logo

William Buck speaker 1  William Buck speaker 2

Many doctors face challenges when it comes to money. This includes understanding tax and the structures you need for private practice, protecting your assets; home and income.  

RACP members in Sydney recently attended the first of three financial sessions to understand the challenges medical professionals face and how to take steps to minimise the impact for them and their business. The event drew a large interest with 60 members online and in person. 

Two experts in the field, Paul Copeland and Gil Abras (pictured) both Directors at William Buck Chartered Accountants, shared their 25 years' experience in the industry.

Topics on the day included:

  • tax and business advice
  • understanding private practice structures
  • purchasing an investment property and how negative gearing works 
  • protecting your income – personal insurance review
  • superannuation and self-managed super funds (SMSFs) – when do you need to consider this
  • personal budgeting and cash-flow planning
  • developing a financial strategy to know where you are going.

Stay tuned for upcoming sessions where William Buck are invited to present in the ‘private practice event’ and New Fellows' Forum later in 2019. These events are free to members and eligible for CPD credits.


Applications for RACP Foundation Research Awards 2020

Applications for Research funding for 2020 offered through the RACP Foundation opened Wednesday, 1 May 2019. Upwards of 50 awards with a total value of $2.5M are available across the different categories: 

The Sir Roy McCaughey (Research Establishment) Fellowship worth up to $75,000 is tenable only in New South Wales. Most of the other awards are open to Fellows and trainees across Australia and New Zealand. Please refer to the RACP Foundation website for information on specific eligibility requirements for each award.

Do you want to be kept updated about awards? Email the RACP Foundation to sign up for updates.

Trainee Research Awards

The Trainee Research Awards provide a wonderful opportunity for trainees to do an oral presentation of their research at a regional event. Trainees selected at each regional event will have the opportunity to present at the 2020 RACP Congress.

Last year’s selected NSW/ACT representative, Dr Karen Waller presented ‘residual risk of blood borne virus infection when Australian organ donor referrals test negative: a systematic review and meta-analysis’ at the Research and Innovation Showcase at the 2019 RACP Congress in Auckland, New Zealand.

Applications for this year’s Trainee Research Awards are open from Monday 1 July to Friday 30 August 2019. Please send your abstract submissions or inquiries by email to

RACP ethics eLearning resources

The RACP has developed a suite of eLearning resources available to members covering a range of topics related to ethical behaviour and decision making in a professional context.

Topics covered include:

The learning package is structured to provide a comprehensive overview of both conceptual and applied ethics in a real-world context which will assist members in their daily practice both in the public and private sectors.

The modules include:

  • introduction to ethics
  • ethics in professional practice
  • ethical issues in healthcare: decision making capacity and consent: Legalities of consent
  • continuous engagement with ethics.

Additional resources related to both professional and clinical ethics are provided throughout the learning package and are available through the RACP Curated Collection.

In addition to being a valuable reference resource the e-learning module is eligible for CPD points, with a certificate of completion available.

For any queries on ethics related issues please email us.

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