Dr Paul Bauert OAM and Dr Graeme Killer AO
Two doctors, one a passionate advocate for the disadvantaged and the other a pioneering force in the care of military veterans, have been recognised with the prestigious AMA President’s Award for their outstanding contributions to the care of their fellow Australians.
Dr Paul Bauert, the Director of Paediatrics at Royal Darwin Hospital, has fought for better care for Indigenous Australians for more than 30 years. More recently, he has taken up the battle for children in immigration detention.
Dr Bauert arrived in Darwin in 1977 as an intern, intending to stay for a year or two. In his words: “I’m still here, still passionate about children’s health and what makes good health and good healthcare possible for all children and their families. I believe I may well have the best job on the planet.”
Dr Graeme Killer, a Vietnam veteran, spent 23 years in the RAAF before becoming principal medial adviser to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Over the next 25 years, he pioneered major improvements in the care of veterans, including the Coordinated Veterans’ Care project.
Dr Killer has overseen a series of ground-breaking research studies into the health of veterans, including Gulf War veterans, atomic blast veterans, submariners, and the F-111 Deseal and Reseal program. He was also instrumental in turning around the veterans’ health care system from earlier prejudicial attitudes towards psychological suffering.
Dr Bauert and Dr Killer were presented with their awards by outgoing AMA President, Professor Brian Owler, at the AMA National Conference Gala Dinner.
Excellence in Healthcare Award
The Excellence in Healthcare Award this year recognised a 20-year partnership devoted to advancing Aboriginal health in the Northern Territory.
Associate Professor John Boffa and Central Australian Aboriginal Congress CEO Donna Ah Chee were presented with the Award for their contribution to reducing harms of alcohol and improving early childhood outcomes for Aboriginal children.
Associate Professor Boffa has worked in Aboriginal primary care services for more than 25 years, and moved to the Northern Territory after graduating in medicine from Monash University.
As a GP and the Chief Medical Officer of Public Health at the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, he has devoted his career to changing alcohol use patterns in Indigenous communities, with campaigns such as ‘Beat the Grog’ and ‘Thirsty Thursday’.
Ms Ah Chee grew up on the far north coast of New South Wales and moved to Alice Springs in 1987. With a firm belief that education is the key pathway to wellbeing and health, she is committed to eradicating the educational disadvantage afflicting Indigenous people.
Between them, the pair have initiated major and highly significant reforms in not only addressing alcohol and other drugs, but in collaborating and overcoming many cross-cultural sensitivities in working in Aboriginal health care.
Their service model on alcohol and drug treatment resulted in a major alcohol treatment service being funded within an Aboriginal community controlled health service.
AMA Woman in Medicine Award
An emergency physician whose pioneering work has led to significant reductions in staph infections in patients is the AMA Woman in Medicine Award recipient for 2016.
Associate Professor Diana Egerton-Warburton has made a major contribution to emergency medicine and public health through her work as Director of Emergency Research and Innovation at Monash Medical Centre Emergency Department, and as Adjunct Senior Lecturer at Monash University.
Her just say no to the just-in-case cannula has yielded real change in practice and has cut staff infections in patients, while her Enough is Enough: Emergency Department Clinicians Action on Reducing Alcohol Harm project developed a phone app that allows clinicians to identify hazardous drinkers and offer them a brief intervention and referral if required.
Associate Professor Egerton-Warburton has been passionate about tackling alcohol harm, from violence against medical staff in hospitals to domestic violence and street brawls.
She championed the first bi-annual meeting on public health and emergency medicine in Australia and established the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine’s alcohol harm in emergency departments program.
In addition, she has developed countless resources for emergency departments to facilitate management of pandemic influenza and heatwave health, and has authored more than 30 peer-reviewed publications.
Professor Owler said Associate Professor Egerton-Warburton’s tireless work striving for high standards in emergency departments for patients and her unrelenting passion to improve public health made her a deserving winner of the Award.
AMA Doctor in Training of the Year Award
Trainee neurosurgeon Dr Ruth Mitchell has been named the inaugural AMA Doctor in Training of the Year in recognition of her passion for tackling bullying and sexual harassment in the medical profession.
Dr Mitchell, who was a panellist in the Bullying and Harassment policy session at National Conference, is in her second year of her PhD at the University of Melbourne, and is a neurosurgery registrar at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
Presenting the award, Professor Owler said Dr Mitchell had played a pivotal role in reducing workplace bullying and harassment in the medical profession and was a tireless advocate for doctors’ wellbeing and high quality care.
MJA/MDA National Prize for Excellence in Medical Research
A study examining the impact of a widely-criticised ABC TV documentary on statin use won the award for best research article published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2015.
Researchers from the University of Sydney, University of NSW and Australian National University found that tens of thousands of Australians stopped or reduced their use of cholesterol-lowering drugs following the documentary’s airing, with potentially fatal consequences.
In 2013, the science program Catalyst aired a two-part series that described statins as “toxic” and suggested the link between cholesterol and heart disease was a myth.
The researchers found that in the eight months after program was broadcast, there were 504,180 fewer dispensings of statins, affecting more than 60,000 people and potentially leading to as many as 2900 preventable heart attacks and strokes.
AMA/ACOSH National Tobacco Scoreboard Award and Dirty Ashtray
The Commonwealth Government won the AMA/ACOSH National Tobacco Scoreboard Award for doing the most to combat smoking and tobacco use, while the Northern Territory Government won the Dirty Ashtray Award for doing the least.
The Commonwealth was commended for its continuing commitment to tobacco control, including plain packaging and excise increases, but still only received a B grade for its efforts.
The Northern Territory received an E grade for lagging behind all other jurisdictions in banning smoking from pubs, clubs, and dining areas, and for a lack of action on education programs.
State Media Awards
Best Lobby Campaign
AMA NSW won the Best Lobby Campaign award for its long-running campaign to improve clinician engagement in public hospitals.
The campaign started after the Garling Inquiry in 2008, which identified the breakdown of trust between public hospital doctors and their managers as an impediment to good, safe patient care.
It led to a world-first agreement between the NSW Government and doctors, signed in February 2015 by Health Minister Jillian Skinner, AMA NSW and the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation NSW, to embed clinician engagement in the culture of the public hospital system, and to formally measure how well doctors are engaged in the decision-making processes.
Best Public Health Campaign
AMA NSW also took home the Best Public Health Campaign award for its innovative education campaign on sunscreen use and storage.
The campaign drew on new research which found that many Australians do not realise that sunscreen can lose up to 40 per cent of its effectiveness if exposed to temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius.
The campaign received an unexpected boost with the release of survey results showing that one in three medical students admitted to sunbaking to tan, despite knowing the cancer risk.
Best State Publication
AMA WA won the highly competitive Best State Publication award for its revamped Medicus members’ magazine.
The 80-page publication provides a mix of special features, clinical commentaries, cover articles and opinion pieces to reflect the concerns and interests of WA’s medical community and beyond.
The judges said that with its eye-catching covers, Medicus made an immediate impact on readers.
Most Innovative Use of Website or New Media
AMA WA won the award for its Buildit portal, a mechanism for matching trainee doctors with research projects and supervisors.
The judges described Buildit as taking the DNA of a dating app and applying it to the functional research requirements of doctors in training, allowing for opportunities that may have otherwise been missed.
National Advocacy Award
AMA Victoria won the National Advocacy Award for its courage and tenacity in tackling bullying, discrimination and harassment within the medical profession.
AMA Victoria sought the views and concerns of its members, and made submissions to both the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ inquiry and the Victorian Auditor-General’s audit of bullying, harassment and discrimination within state public hospitals.
The judges said that tackling a challenge within your own profession was a particularly difficult task, especially in the glare of public scrutiny, making the AMA Victoria campaign a standout.