The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has announced its new President-Elect Dr Nicole Higgins.
Dr Higgins will officially take on the role at the conclusion of the RACGP’s 2022 Annual General Meeting on Thursday 24th November, when current President Adj. Professor Karen Price’s two-year term comes to an end.
Dr Higgins has worked across the depth and breadth of general practice in urban and rural Australia, and owns a teaching practice in Mackay, regional Queensland.
She is a member of the RACGP’s Queensland Faculty Council, and in this role she has demonstrated effective advocacy on state issues, and has regularly appeared in the media, including speaking out on issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Passionate about GP training, Dr Higgins is the current Chair of GP Supervisors Australia, and has been involved in GP training for over 20 years. She received the Supervisor of the Year, Tropical Medical Training 2014 award, and Australian Supervisor of the Year Nominee General Practice Education and Training Ltd 2014. She is also an alumni and mentor for the RACGP Future Leaders Program, supporting GPs to make a difference in their communities.
Current President Adj. Professor Karen Price congratulated Dr Higgins.
“Congratulations Dr Higgins, I have full confidence you will be a strong advocate for GPs and continue the critical work of the College to advance general practice and ensure everyone across Australia can access world class care,” she said.
“We have come a long way in a short space of time, but there is still much to be done. The pandemic is not over, and at the same time, years of underfunding and neglect have put general practice in crisis.
“The lost decades of underinvestment in general practice have also led to the GP workforce shortage, which is particularly severe in rural and remote communities.
“We do have a significant opportunity to make a difference here. The transition of the Australian General Practice Training program back to the specialist colleges including the RACGP from February 1st 2023 is an opportunity to reform our GP training system, and improve the distribution of GPs for the long-term benefit of communities Australia-wide.
“However, Australia’s leaders urgently need to address the root of the crisis to ensure the future of general practice and access to world class care for everyone across the country. This means re-thinking healthcare funding in Australia, which is skewed to focus on treating illness, rather than preventing it. This is despite all the evidence showing investment in primary care saves lives, improves health outcomes, and is much more cost effective.
“I am confident Dr Higgins will take the challenges head on, and prosecute the many opportunities to advocate for GPs, and the future of high-quality GP care in our country, including through the government’s Strengthening Medicare Taskforce and the implementation of the 10 Year Primary Health Care Plan.”
Dr Higgins said she was looking forward to officially taking on the President role in November.
“I am honoured to be taking on the RACGP President role, and look forward to working with members, other GPs and stakeholders on healthcare, including the government in the months and years ahead,” she said.
“General practice is the most cost effective way of keeping Australians healthy – GPs save lives, and prevent illness.
“For too long, the role of general practice has been undervalued, oversimplified and defunded. Without general practice, the system fails.
“As a grass roots GP, practice owner, supervisor, working parent and primary caregiver, I understand the stressors that GPs face, and I am determined to be a strong and loud advocate for the changes we need. Now is the time to stand up as a profession and make our mark.
“Australia’s leaders need to stop talking about change and start making the change. We don’t need lip service, we need action. And I intend to fight hard for the future of world class care in our country, care that is accessible to everyone, no matter their postcode or income.
“As a passionate GP educator, another of my core priorities as President will be the return of the Australian General Practice Training program back to the RACGP from February 23, 2022.
“I look forward to working closely with all stakeholders to deliver world class GP training, and a seamless transition with as little disruption to the delivery of training as possible, including the Department of Health, and peak bodies representing GP supervisors and registrars.
“It’s also critical that we see continued support for college-led training from all sides of government, and I will make this clear as President, because general practice training is the future of general practice and the future of care in our country – it must be a priority.
“Finally, I want to acknowledge the RACGP’s members, the GPs working hard in communities across the nation, nobody understands the issues facing our healthcare system better than you do. And as President of the RACGP – Australia’s largest representative body for GPs across the nation – there is no greater priority than listening to our members, speaking up for them, and fighting for the future of general practice. This is my commitment.”