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Working together to deliver doctors who will make a difference
The Collaboration Agreement between the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) and the Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand (Medical Deans) continues to deliver real outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health today with the biannual Indigenous Knowledge Initiative being held in Sydney.
“The initiative recognises the journey of learning that medical schools undertake to acknowledge the value and significance of Indigenous knowledge,” says AIDA president, Associate Professor Peter O’Mara. The day includes a visit by Medical Deans to the Aboriginal Medical Service Western Sydney (AMSWS), Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation Aboriginal Medical Service (TACAMS) and participating in an education session conducted by the Aboriginal Medical Services.
“The Indigenous Knowledge Initiative is one of the many joint ventures in the collaboration agreement between the two peak organisations, which is aimed at leading the way in realising the potential of Indigenous medical students as well as improving the capacity of non-Indigenous medical students to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“The partnership has been remarkably fruitful,” says Professor O’Mara, “the Medical Deans recognise that making a lasting impact is not simply about funding and infrastructure, but genuinely understanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, lives, cultures and communities.”
Professor Justin Beilby, President of the Medical Deans – which comprises the Deans of Australia’s 18 university medical schools and the two New Zealand schools – says the initiative reflects Medical Deans’ very strong and sustained commitment to collaborate with AIDA to improve Indigenous Health.
“This is through not only the education and training in Indigenous Health of all medical students through the
medical curriculum but also in making sure that individual Deans, in their leadership roles, are equipped with the understanding and knowledge of the health issues of Indigenous Australians, and potential strategies that the Deans can influence to improve the health outcomes of Indigenous Australians.”
Professor O’Mara says: “Together we’re delivering future doctors who are absolutely committed to better health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and are armed with the capabilities to achieve this.”
Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand – Justin Beilby: 0403 017 457
Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association – Jessica Jeeves: 0439 754 425
Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand is actively working to be part of the health workforce solution in parallel with ongoing national health reform.
Challenges facing student interns, the clinical academic workforce and the future demand for doctors will be on the agenda at the 2011 Medical Deans Annual Conference.
Also up for discussion will be how to best assess Australia’s medical graduates, and how to strengthen partnerships between Aboriginal medical services and universities, particularly through placing students into Indigenous health settings.
‘It is a dynamic time for universities and medical graduates alike,’ said Professor Justin Beilby, the President of Medical Deans. ‘A record number of medical graduates is coming through the university system, and the number of intern places has not kept pace, so there are now pressing issues about where they spend their first year post-university.’
Professor Beilby said another key issue for universities in Australia and New Zealand was clinical academic staff, who have been the cornerstone of medical student education for decades. ‘These practitioners are crucial to overall medical education and research at universities, yet we are finding it harder to recruit and retain these staff.’
Professor Beilby said training for students in Indigenous health was currently limited, and something Medical Deans was keen to expand. ‘Medical Deans wants to build on our links with our Indigenous partners to allow more student exposure to primary health care settings, as well as adding ‘value’ to service provision in these settings,’ Professor Beilby said. An important part of the conference is the biannual Indigenous Knowledge Initiative conducted in partnership with the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, which will engage all Deans in better understanding the health issues of Indigenous Australians in Greater Western Sydney, an area with the highest urban population of Indigenous Australians in Australia.
The conference is being hosted by the University of Western Sydney on 6-8 September 2011. It will include speakers from Health Workforce Australia, the Australian Government, New Zealand Government, Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Australian Medical Council, Australian Learning and Teaching Council, National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Medical Students Association and Medical Board of Australia.
Australia’s medical schools are experiencing ‘a perfect storm’ of funding pressures, according to Professor Justin Beilby, the new President of Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand.
At the same time, a shortage of training places, challenges finding enough academic staff and uncertainty about the future
demand for doctors have put extra pressure on the country’s university medical schools.
‘Our analysis shows that Federal Government’s education funding covers only about half the cost of an actual medical degree, and this is simply unsustainable,’ he said.
Professor Beilby was today elected unopposed as President, heading the organisation that represents the Deans of Australia and New Zealand’s 20 Medical Schools.
He said Medical Deans was working closely with Health Workforce Australia in its review into future medical workforce needs.
‘Currently we are unclear about how many medical students we need to train for the future, so we are keen to see the results later this year of a comprehensive review by Health Workforce Australia, which will detail the workforce planning needs through to 2025 in its National Training Plan.’
Until this review was completed, there should be no new university medical schools or school expansions, Professor Beilby said.
‘There has been asignificant increase in the number of medical students in recent years, and it is essential we do not increase that number until we have a proper, detailed workforce plan,’ he said.
‘We also need to ensure there are sufficient funds and sufficient academic staff to educate the existing student cohort and maintain the very high standard we have set in Australia.’
Professor Beilby, who is the Executive Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Adelaide, reinforced the Medical Deans view that all graduates from Australia’s universities – including international medical students – should have access to an intern place. A one-year internship, usually in a hospital but increasingly in the community, is required before a graduate can practise medicine.
More information, Justin Beilby: (08) 8303 5193
Mary Solomon: 0400 339 820
Key organisations call for the establishment of a Medical Workforce Planning Advisory Committee to oversee research for medical workforce planning, in order to improve planning and coordination throughout the medical education continuum. Please to view the full joint statement.
The Federal Government must not increase the number of medical student places for at least two years (more…)