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Mary's Farewell Message
30 June, 2022
Kaya, tena koutou and greetings to you all.
I am writing this message on the flight back to Perth from Alice Springs having been part of the hospital accreditation team visiting Alice Springs Hospital. One of the reasons I enjoy hospital accreditation visits is that I always learn something new and pick up ideas to take home and I feel a little guilty in that I think I took away much more than I gave on this visit. Working in a metro centre it’s easy to be ignorant of the challenges for rural ICUs. Penny Stewart has done an incredible job building up the unit and Paul Secombe, Brad Treloar and Greg Brogan are set to continue onwards and upwards. My thanks and respect to everyone at ASH ICU.
It seems appropriate that next week is NAIDOC Week (3-10 July) with the message Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! This is an opportunity to celebrate and recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and participate in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures. We will be launching our new Reflect: Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group and establishing a First Nations library for staff – and please make use of this too when you next visit the College. Please think how you can take part in NAIDOC Week and, in the lead up to a referendum on acceptance of the Uluru Statement From The Heart, raise awareness of the importance of listening to the voice of First Nations peoples.
An important take-home learning for me from the visit to ASH with the opportunity to listen to the hospital’s Aboriginal Liaison Officers was the reminder of how important it is to establish trust of us for our patients. Key to this is an understanding of and respect for other people’s values, beliefs and experiences. I believe that taking the time and effort to listen and learn to another’s point of view enables us to be a better person and work better as a team and for our patients, whether there is a difference of culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, politics – the list goes on.
An inability to respect the views of others is illustrated on the world stage right now with the US Supreme Court reversal of the Roe v Wade ruling regarding abortion. As on many prior occasions, Jacinda Ardern has nailed the appropriate response and I will use her words: “
People are absolutely entitled to have deeply held convictions on this issue. But personal beliefs should never rob another from making their own decisions. To see that principle now lost in the United States feels like a loss for women everywhere.”
By the time you read this, the AGM will have taken place and I will also use this message to welcome Steve McGloughlin and the New Fellows representative, Cara Moore to the Board. Rob Bevan, Nhi Nguyen, Neil Orford and I were re-elected.
I am proud to announce that Prof Imogen Mitchell was awarded the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queen’s Birthday honours for services to intensive care medicine and tertiary education. Imogen has also been the Clinical Director of the ACT’s COVID-19 response during the pandemic. I send Imogen our congratulations.
This is my last President’s e-news message, and, as in an earlier message, I apologise for sounding like Gwyneth Paltrow, who gave arguably the worst Oscar acceptance speech (possibly overshadowed by events at this year’s ceremony) - I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the workings of the College over the last two years and for the help, support and guidance I have received. I am keenly aware how many people could be wonderful presidents of our College and the legacy and example of those who have been Deans of the Faculty and Presidents before me, and I am very humbled and honoured that I have had this chance.
I think every presidential term has its challenges, and Covid has certainly thrown a few my way, and I would like to acknowledge the hard work of the Board, College staff and our committees. Everything that has been achieved or happened that made me look good has been because of them. The Board is made up of a group of amazing individuals: altruistic, kind, collegial, respectful, smart and great advocates for our specialty and our community, and I consider myself so lucky to have got to know them and work with them.
Our College staff often go unrecognised and unappreciated for their work and they are essential members of our team. Our overarching aim is to provide the best care for our patients in the best environment and the staff are an integral part of this goal. Covid for our Melbourne based team has been really tough and I am so sorry that travel restrictions and lockdown have limited face to face contact. This has made it hard for the staff, Board, trainees and Fellows to get to know each other and affected teamwork. Despite this, our staff have done an incredible job meeting deadlines and delivering projects including the AMC accreditation process and the College exams and I can’t thank you all enough.
Our committee members also fly under the radar and don’t get enough acknowledgement for their time and hard work. I know you are all volunteers with busy day jobs and many other commitments and college business is an additional burden so please accept my heartfelt thanks. I would like to thank all the examiners too. Covid has placed additional burdens on the exam processes and it’s a credit to the hard work and adaptability of our examiners, staff, training supervisors and trainees that we have continued to run our exams despite this.
Over the last two years we have developed closer ties with fellow organisations, in particular ANZICS, ANZCA and FICM in the UK. The opportunities for closer collaboration and joint projects are very exciting and we’re looking forward to co-locating with ANZICS in shared premises later in the year. I would like to thank Anthony Holley and Mark Nicholls, the immediate past and current Presidents of ANZICS respectively for their leadership during this period. Although our two organisations have different domains of responsibility, there are areas of common interest to both, and together we are stronger and can work more effectively for the good of the intensive care community.
Involvement in College activities provides an opportunity to shape the future directions of our specialty and I encourage you all to get involved in any capacity and have a voice. One issue I have struggled with over the last two years is the College role in advocacy. We are asked to provide support/endorsement/comment on a range of issues that are sometimes difficult to relate to “core business”. My personal view is that as “Health Advocates”, campaigning for health equity, human rights and against social injustice is our core business and I appreciate others may have a different view and think this is more the remit of ANZICS or the AMA for example. Certainly, on review of their interim accreditation feedback, the AMC consider advocacy to be part of our role. It would be good to know what you all think and I’m hoping your feedback will come through the results of the Member Engagement Survey. If you were unable to complete the survey, but wish to provide feedback, please contact the College by email or through your national, state or territory committee and tell us about your thoughts on this issue.
I’m sure like me you’ve been saddened by the news of the earthquake in Afghanistan and the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine and the tragic loss of life. My thoughts are with those of you who have family, friends or colleagues affected by these disasters. Please make use of all available supports including the confidential College Members Assistance Program.
Lastly, I shall be handing over to Rob Bevan at the next Board meeting in July. Rob is well known to most, if not all, of you. He has been involved in the College Board in many different roles including Trainee Representative, New Fellows Representative, Chair of the Education Committee and Fellowship Affairs Committee, as well as being a current member of the Board Executive. Rob will be a great President and take the College onwards and upwards, and, with the upcoming changes to the health system structure in Aotearoa New Zealand, he is an ideal person to represent the interests of intensive care in both countries and help shape the future direction of our specialty. Rob will have strong support from Peter Kruger as Vice-President and Priya Nair as Treasurer.
I shall leave you with the words of a Māori proverb that Alex Browne taught me for opening last year’s virtual ASM:
He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people, it is people, it is people.
Go well and stay safe