I have had the very good fortune to meet and have the opportunity to work with some fantastic colleagues since coming to Melbourne. In the health field particularly I have found some great allies in Marie Bismark who is an incredibly talented public health physician, health lawyer, company director and health services researcher. In addition to my University of Melbourne colleague I have also met Grant Phelps who is a gastroenterologist turned management convert. He is Associate Professor with Deakin University’s Medical school where he leads a Masters program in clinical leadership. Until recently Grant was assisting the Tasmanian Department’s Safety and Quality programme as part time Medical Director and has had a number of other clinical engagement roles. I have also met Erwin Loh who is Chief Medical Officer at Monash Health and an adjunct Professor at Monash University where he teaches health law ad health services management. Erwin’s PhD examined medical leadership in Australia and has some fascinating insights for those interested in this topic.
This is a group of very talented and clever people who are genuinely committed to improving care for patients. We came together as a team, very ably assisted by Laura Thomas and Jen Morris, with an interest in exploring issues relating to medical engagement. Last year we were lucky enough to get some funding from the Melbourne School of Government exploring the engagement of doctors in organisational governance within the Australian health system. We conducted just over 30 interviews with doctors who work (or have worked) in management roles.
While we found a lot of interest and enthusiasm for these roles there is little in the way of formally articulated and shared roles and development processes. For us this suggests that the time is ripe for a broad national discussion about the role of medical engagement as an enabler of change within the health system, and how this might be best supported. The response to this conversation could require significant changes to the roles, expectations, education and development of doctors and other professionals but the pay-off of a more engaged workforce potentially offers a significant reward.
The report is available here if you want to read it in full.