Being Specific September 2019

Chair report

From where I sit – Dr Lara Roeske, Chair RACGP Specific Interests

It has been a very busy couple of months for RACGP Specific Interests.

RACGP Specific Interests Board Chairs

Firstly, I am very pleased to welcome new Chairs to our Council – Dr Jessica Kneebone, Dr Michael Ellis and Dr Cathy Andronis. We also welcome back Dr Penny Abbott, who is returning as Chair of Custodial Health following the retirement of Dr Tom Turnbull.

I’d like to thank Dr Turnbull and the other retiring Council members, Dr Darra Murphy, Dr Janie Maxwell and Dr Scott Masters.

We now have one new and one reinstated group to add to our areas of expertise and interest, bringing the total to 30 specific interests groups.

Breast Medicine network

As one of the original Specific Interests groups established in 2009, Breast Medicine has been operating since 2016 as a sub-group of Cancer and Palliative Care. Now, the RACGP has decided to reinstate its stand-alone status with Dr Alia Kaderbhai as Chair. I look forward to seeing the renewed activity from this very important area.

Aerospace Medicine network

We are excited to announce our newest group: Aerospace Medicine, established and chaired by Dr Kate Manderson. This is an area of interest shared by an increasing number of GPs and, as air travel becomes more commonplace for our patients, it is an increasingly important area of healthcare for all GPs. This edition of Being Specific focuses on aerospace medicine, including its history, current research and applications, and the role of general practice. You can join RACGP Specific Interests Aerospace Medicine.


We have concluded our series of Australia-wide parkrun events. These have been exceptionally well received and we are hoping to develop resources and hold more parkrun and social prescribing events soon.

GP19 Conference

Finally, GP19 is almost here, so don’t forget to register!

Highlights of this year’s conference will include the inaugural RACGP PitchFest, a special event involving medical professionals pitching innovative solutions to a challenge they have seen or experienced in Australian healthcare to a judging panel. There will also be a facilitated panel discussion on voluntary assisted dying, including the role of the GP, safeguards for GPs, healthcare professionals and patients, and learnings from the overseas experience.

This year’s program is filled with opportunities to hear from exceptional speakers and to participate in interactive and highly engaging sessions with take-away skills to implement in your everyday practice.

This newsletter will highlight some of the presentations and workshops developed by RACGP Specific Interests members for GP19, and I encourage to support your colleagues.

I look forward to seeing you Adelaide.

RACGP Specific Interests news

Aerospace medicine in focus

RACGP Specific Interests Aerospace Medicine

‘Aerospace medicine has been an international specialty almost since the Wright brothers began flying in 1903,’ says Dr Kate Manderson (pictured), Chair of the newly established RACGP Specific Interests Aerospace Medicine.

‘During the world wars, as aircraft became more complex and operated in a more challenging environment with altitude and pressure, we started to recognise that human performance was a bigger and bigger issue in terms of losing aircraft through crashing or losing battles,’ she said.

Flying is becoming very common; 4.6 billion passengers are expected to fly this year.

Consequently, aerospace medicine is becoming increasingly important.

Combining medicine and flying has been an abiding interest for Dr Manderson, who began working in this field in 2002 after becoming a medical officer in the navy. Her interest is now being shared by many GPs.

The move came after the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) relaxed rules around medical examinations for pilots of small planes flying at low altitude.

‘When that decision was made, we thought it would be appropriate to have a professional network for doctors who sign off on fitness-to-fly [documents],’ Dr Manderson said.

Dr Manderson is also president of the Australasian Society of Aerospace Medicine (ASAM), founded 70 years ago.

Dr Manderson describes aerospace medicine as a growth area. At the moment, 75% of the work for Designated Aviation Medical Examiners is providing medical advice and assessments to pilots and air traffic controllers. But passenger fitness-to-fly will be an increasing issue for GPs, Dr Manderson predicts, with ultra-long distance flights now available.

‘In the last 10 to 15 years, global aviation has grown exponentially,’ Dr Manderson said.

‘Getting on a plane is what getting on the train or bus used to be. That means people with health problems – our patients – will be on the plane.

‘With [ultra-long] flights with no option to get off, and no inflight medical support – what happens if there’s a problem? It’s an increasing issue for airline medical departments.

Passengers with health complaints can be directly affected by the flight environment. The internationally mandated cabin pressure is the equivalent of 8000 feet (around 2.4 km).

That means some people may struggle with the lower oxygen intake. Other issues include pain from trapped gases, such as inside a tooth after a dental procedure.

In coming years, Dr Manderson expects the ‘space’ part of aerospace medicine to come to the fore. ‘Space medicine is on the horizon. That’s a really fascinating thing, to watch that bubble to the surface,’ she said.

With the launch of the Australian Space Agency last year, Dr Manderson predicts that aerospace medicine will be a key area of interest for many.

'We’re not about to launch shuttles or missions to Mars. What we are going to be doing is value adding in niche areas with a high level of expertise,’ she said. Join RACGP Specific Interests Aerospace Medicine.

This article was first published on the RACGP’s newsGP and reproduced in part with its permission.  

Aerospace medicine on shareGP

RACGP Specific Interests Aerospace Medicine has a shareGP group. This is an area for RACGP members with an interest in this area to share articles and research, discuss clinical practice and collaborate on projects.

Aerospace medicine in the news

Apollo.jpgSpace medicine and the legacy of Project Apollo

The protection of the Apollo crews from the harsh environment of space was a formidable challenge. In the 1960s, human space flight was a genuine leap into the unknown and NASA flight surgeons were still unsure what hazards the space environment might present. Scientists could only guess at the likely consequences of extraterrestrial expeditions. They knew something of the nature of the physical environment – the high vacuum, its thermodynamics, the radiation and weightlessness, but precisely how this environment would interact with human physiology is unknown.

In this article in The Lancet, Dr Kevin Fong a doctor with a special interest in space medicine examines the health challenges of space travel and the legacy of the first moon landing on medicine and the understanding of human physiology exposed to extreme conditions. (Fong, K. Moon landing: Space medicine and the legacy of Project Apollo. Lancet 2019;394(10194):205–207. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(19)31568-5.)

Challenges and opportunities of civilian space travel

The advent of civilian travel in space, along with fast-growing commercial ventures and talk of NASA resuming manned missions to the moon within the next decade, will open up new avenues for medical research and discovery.

The Mayo Clinic has made important contributions to space medicine and research since the space program began in the 1950s and with aeronautical research during the Second World War era. Mayo Clinic is now positioning itself to play a major role in space medicine advances as the US prepares for a possible return to the moon 50 years after Apollo 11.

‘Civilian spaceflight is a new frontier … there is a paradigm shift from highly trained, exceptionally fit astronauts to the broader public. There are a lot of unknowns and reasons to be cautious,’ said Dr Jan Stepanek, Director Aerospace Medicine at the Mayo Clinic Arizona campus. (Punsky, K. Mayo Clinic aerospace medicine experts look ahead 50 Years after Apollo 11 Mayo Clinic News Network 13 May 2019.)

Aviation medical centre for pilots and air traffic controllers opened

The Singapore government has established a new aviation medical centre to support the health needs of Singapore’s aviation workforce at the Changi General Hospital. Opened in June this year, the Changi Aviation Medicine Centre (CAMC) will cater to pilots, air traffic controllers, as well as ground support staff. (Tiah, C. New aviation medical centre for pilots and air traffic controllers launched. CNA 11 June 2019.)

New and returning Council members

In 2019, 14 Chair positions became vacant for which nominations were called.

The following people were either renominated for their position or were elected following a ballot.

  • Dr Hester Wilson – Addiction Medicine
  • Dr Joanne Simpson – Allergy
  • Dr Wendy Burton – Antenatal and Postnatal Care
  • Assoc Prof Joel Rhee – Cancer and Palliative Care
  • Dr Atef Asham – Cardiology
  • Dr Gary Deed – Diabetes
  • Dr Trina Gregory – eHealth
  • Dr Patrick Clancy – Hospital Medicine
  • Dr Rebecca Stewart – Medical Education
  • Dr Milana Votrubec – Pain Management
  • Dr Kate Walker – Refugee Health

Three new Chairs have been appointed following the retirement of the current network Chairs:

  • Dr Jessica Kneebone – Environmental Impacts in General Practice
  • Dr Michael Ellis – Musculoskeletal Medicine
  • Dr Cathy Andronis – Psychological Medicine.

Thanks to the three outgoing Chairs – Dr Janie Maxwell, Dr Scott Masters and Dr Darra Murphy – for their hard work and commitment:

Dr Tom Turnbull, Chair Custodial Health, retired during the annual election period. A ballot was held for this position during August. Thanks to Dr Turnbull for his work in providing a networking and communication mechanism for GPs working in this area. The successful candidate is Dr Penny Abbott.

Save the date: RACGP Specific Interests / ASPM joint conference

Saturday 1 August 2020

Following the success of this year’s ‘Trauma-informed care in general practice’ conference, RACGP Specific Interests and the Australian Society for Psychological Medicine (ASPM) will once again present a joint conference in 2020.

The 2020 conference will be held in Melbourne on Saturday 1 August 2020.

RACGP Specific Interests 2019 Member Meeting

7.00 pm AEST, Tuesday 15 October 2019

This faculty Member Meeting is held every year to showcase achievements and discuss plans for the future. We encourage you to attend and participate.

To allow for maximum participation across the country, this meeting will be held online.

Further information will be distributed to all members prior to the meeting.

Register now.

Specific Interests @ GP19

Caring for vulnerable groups in general practice

8.30 am – 3.30 pm AEDT, Wednesday 23 October 2019 – Riverbank room 7

RACGP Specific Interests Custodial Health, Refugee Health and Abuse and Violence in Families have jointly developed this active learning module (ALM).

The ‘Caring for vulnerable groups in general practice’ ALM will be run as a workshop and will take a pragmatic approach to developing skills in working with various vulnerable population groups.

This workshop will cover effective techniques when working with people who may have been subject to violence or abuse, who may have been a refugee or asylum seeker, been involved in the prison system or belong to other vulnerable community groups.

Participants will also develop skills for when patients present with addiction problems, mental illness, behavioural challenges and other health needs, which can be prevalent among vulnerable groups.

Climate change and travel medicine
10.00–11.30 am AEDT, Thursday 24 October 2019 – Room E3

RACGP Specific Interests Environmental Impacts in General Practice member, Dr Tammra Warby will present on the Declaration Calling for Family Doctors to Act on Planetary Health during this session.

Dr Warby, who was a project co-lead on the declaration, will explain the definition of planetary health and the relationship of human-caused environmental impacts on health risks.

Planetary health is emerging as a field, and while not currently part of GP training, this presentation will represent current evidence, and new ideas and learning. The session will discuss the opportunities and resources available for GPs, to support them in taking action on planetary health and climate change. The session will also include presentations on actions GPs can take to help address climate change and the growing area of adventure travel.


Doc, my skin is bothering me – what is this and what can I do about it?

10.00–11.30 am AEDT, Thursday 24 October 2019 – Room E2

RACGP Specific Interests Dermatology Chair Assoc Prof Morton Rawlin, presents an interactive workshop looking at common skin conditions, their differentiation and their treatment options, new and old. 

Sexual health

1.45–3.15 pm AEDT, Friday 25 October 2019 – Riverbank Room 5

RACGP Specific Interests Sexual Health Medicine Chair, Dr Amy Moten is joined by members Dr Anita Elias, Dr Wendy Pakes, and Assoc Prof Michael Burke and RACGP Specific Interests Chair, Dr Lara Roeske to present ‘A sexual health medley: Detect, prevent, treat’.

In this workshop, GPs will participate in hands-on clinical stations to gain valuable expert insights across a range of emerging and challenging areas in sexually transmitted infection testing, cervical cancer prevention, contraception and sexuality.

Integrating shared care for cancer survivors

1.15–2.45 pm AEDT, Saturday 26 October 2019 – Room E1

RACGP Specific Interests Cancer and Palliative Care Chair, Assoc Prof Joel Rhee and Director of the Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre, Prof Michael Jefford, will present this workshop on cancer shared care.

This workshop will share evidence that highlights the benefits, barriers to uptake and the core principles that underpin the implementation of shared care for cancer in primary care. The presenters will build on these principles by presenting current data from recently shared care trials for prostate and colorectal cancer.


Several RACGP Specific Interests members have contributed posters to GP19:

  • Dr Andrew Ramage, (Chair, Chapter of Military Medicine) – Military medicine: More than blasts and bullets.
  • Assoc Prof Charlotte Hespe – Cardiovascular disease risk identification and management in Australian general practice.
  • Dr Rebekah Hoffman – Motherhood and medicine: A systematic review.
  • Do Jo-Anne Manski-Nankervis – Future Health Today: Co-design of technology platform.
  • Dr Paula Mazzocato – Preventing travel-associated infectious diseases in children.

National news

GP19 registrar Facebook photo competition winners

Thank you to all of our registrar members who entered the 'GP19 registrar Facebook photo competition'. We loved seeing your entries that showed us your passion for general practice through photos and captions! However, we could only choose three winning submissions.

Congratulations to:

5d384993e3baa-NathanLam-PhotoEntry.jpgDr Nathan Lam, SA: 'To care for someone in general practice involves all of what makes us human. I feel like I work in the intersection of creativity, pragmatism, humour, philosophy and diversity.'


5d2eff40155b2-lauraatworkinbright.jpg Dr Laura Harris, VIC: 'It’s the perfect blend of challenge, variety, advocacy and humility. It keeps me on my toes and lets me make a difference in my community.'

5d2c523ad1595-IMG_20190715_152013_exported_8304937161697120962.jpg Dr Mitchell Walmsley, QLD: 'I chose to be a GP to provide comprehensive family healthcare. From antenatal to geriatrics, providing proactive care and building relationships with the local community.'

You’re all on your way to GP19!

Mitchell, Laura and Nathan have all won return flights, accommodation and full registration to the GP19 Conference in Adelaide from Thursday to Saturday 24–26 October 2019.

If you would like to attend the RACGP GP19 Conference, you can view the program on the GP19 website.

Register now.

External news

8th Annual NHMRC Symposium on Research Translation – Melbourne

Tuesday and Wednesday 19–20 November 2019

The theme of the 2019 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Symposium on Research Translation is ‘Research translation in the digital age: Harnessing the power of data and analytical technologies’.

Symposium presentations will reflect on optimising the use of health and medical research data to inform healthcare policy and practice. They will address the opportunities and challenges offered by this ‘new age’, as well as looking at how to overcome the barriers to effective data of health and medical research. It will also focus on the social, legal and ethical aspects of the impact of the digital age on health.

Register now.

*Inclusion does not imply RACGP endorsement.

GP survey: Guidelines for the treatment of alcohol problems

The University of Sydney has been funded by the Department of Health to update the national Guidelines for the treatment of alcohol problems.

As part of the  national stakeholder consultation strategy with health professionals, the University of Sydney has released a short survey (5–7 minutes) that asks about attitudes, facilitators and barriers to using the guidelines in clinical practice.

The survey includes questions about your current work position, your experience in addressing alcohol-related problems, preferences for accessing information, preferred presentation of guidelines so that they are useful, and identifying additional training or resources. Any information collected will be de-identified.

The survey is open to all health professionals, even outside the drug and alcohol sector. Participants will have a chance to win one of three $100 gift cards.

If you would like more information on this survey or the guidelines, please email Benjamin Riordan.

Take the survey.

This survey will close on Thursday 31 October 2019.

*Inclusion does not imply RACGP endorsement.

2020 Australian Pain Society 40th Annual Scientific Meeting – Call for abstracts

The 2020 Australian Pain Society annual meeting will be held on Sunday to Wednesday 5–8 April 2020. Submission of abstracts on original work is now open.

Categories for abstract submissions:

  • Experimental studies (clinical studies, basic science, public health) and clinical trials
  • Clinical practice and service delivery (poster only)
  • Case reports (poster only).

Submit your abstracts through the submission portal by Thursday 31 October 2019.

*Inclusion does not imply RACGP endorsement.

The RACGP does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may result from reliance on, or the use of, any information contained in this newsletter.