Like many 17 year olds, I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do on leaving high school. I selected medicine, because it was there. Since my completing my studies at UWA at the end of 1985, I've continued to take the paths that have opened in front of me and I've enjoyed their diversity. I’ve even taken multiple paths at the same time. Research is one of the interweaving paths, which now relate to all the other paths.
When we had to do a public health project during the fifth year of medical school, I was one of a group of three students, who got to work with Professor Fiona Stanley on a project. We helped gather data, which showed the decline of congenital rubella syndrome following the introduction of the rubella vaccination program in Western Australia.
After my years as an intern and resident medical officer at Royal Perth Hospital, I travelled for a couple of years, learned a few languages and then returned to start my training program in general practice. During that time, I was recruited into a research project by Professor Max Kamien at UWA, who was interested in the impact of critical incidents in developing the novice to proficient practitioner. Following those early publications, research took a back seat, while I developed clinical and other skills.
Over the next few years, I completed further examinations and postgraduate studies. I obtained Fellowship qualifications both in general practice and in addiction medicine. I worked part-time in both the public and private sector, mixing clinical, policy and education components in my work. In those roles, I was confronted with the problem of impairment in health professionals, often related either to their mental health and/or to their use of alcohol and drugs. I now sit on the Impairment Review Committee of the Nurses and Midwives Board of Western Australia and am a panellist for the Impairment Review Committee and Professional Standards Committee for the Medical Board of Western Australia.
I took on local, state and national roles in the GP networks, then known as Divisions of General Practice. I became involved in health system change, the engagement of the profession and the introduction of new programs. I developed an interest in safety and quality and now sit on the Western Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care. I began to focus on the role of communication, the single largest factor leading to adverse outcomes and complaints in the health system. As a consultant addiction physician within the public sector, who provided education to doctors, nurses and other health professionals across Western Australia, I became aware of the frequent issues identified in managing challenging behaviour and attempts to change unhealthy behaviour.
All of this experience has been important in formulating my research interests. These now span a number of areas. I am interested in the engagement of busy health professionals in changing clinical behaviour such as prescribing. I am also interested in the changing role of health professions as patients become more educated and want to take a greater role in their healthcare. I am interested in communication in the health consultation including limit setting, managing aggressive behaviour, motivational interviewing and communicating in complex situations and with special groups. I am also interested in workforce sustainability including resilience from burnout.
My foray back into research resulted from an invitation to participate in various research projects at UWA. I then took on the role of Coordinator of Postgraduate Medicine at ECU in 2004 and a few years later became part of the Systems Intervention Research Centre for Heath.
Research for me has been a meandering path with broad applications relating to my clinical work, my role as an educator, my liaison GP role and my specialist role in addiction medicine. It changes how I view and work in all my roles.