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The Quarterly

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Dr Karen Owen In this first Issue for 2017 we commence a series to recall and reflect on the RACMA journey. March 2017 marks the 50th year since incorporation as a College for medical administration. This gives cause to celebrate and to contemplate what’s happened these past 50 years and what might happen in the next period.

I have heard several narratives about ‘the College’ over the last 10 years. The 2015 debate about use of the word “administrators” in the College name probably reflected most of the other narratives. Should RACMA find an alternative to medical administrators?  Might medical leaders be appropriate? There appears to be a generational identity change. A recent new Fellow recalled to me that ‘the College’ begins to be more widely understood and the specialty recognised for the value it offers. These Fellows look to protect and build on the legacy of the Founding Fathers and prior generations of Fellows but they see a different future and a different name for the College.

No member of the College  is dissuaded from the narrative  that medically trained managers make better ‘leaders/managers/administrators’ in and of health settings. Despite the member passion for this view, ‘proof’ is still in the waiting. This appears to be the situation around the globe – if WFMM members reported efforts and roadblocks in their countries provide something to go by.

Some College members report through surveys that the College should do more to be less conservative than other colleges. I hear this expression ‘the College should do’ often and I am always led to wonder who this is. Who takes on this responsibility? What it is that should be done? When and where should it happen? I am fortunate to have in my RACMA office many bound volumes of minutes of antecedent organisations and those of RACMA, Newsletters and Annual Reports. A browse through these heralds the names of the founding Fellows, annual graduating new members, past award winners and Council/Board/Committee/Officer members. It is an amazingly rich roll call of names in executive leadership roles making hugely significant contributions. And yet, it’s not hard to find a bunch of Fellows at a meeting who feel ‘undervalued’. This is often when I hear the expression ‘the College should do’. Is it the difference between manager and leader that the leader has more with which to ‘measure the sense of achievement and satisfaction’?

I recall a 2016 interview with Dr Ian Brand, who was one of the Founding Fathers of the College. I invited him to recall why and what it was like to set up the College back in 1966/67. He responded, ”It was a long, hard job … It was curious… the Med. Supers …used to whinge about how bad things were for them and how bad their conditions were and how people didn’t want to love them, and that used to drive me bananas.”

“That was one of the reasons I thought if we got a college going, then they might come to better appreciation of themselves. Over the years, I think this has been slow, but I think that it (has) happened and people now have a better appreciation of the medical administrators.”

Recently we published a roll call of women Fellows who have graduated since 1969. I received several email responses; pretty well all of them were grateful to be acknowledged. What stood out amongst the roll call was that only three women have become Presidents of RACMA, commencing with Dr Jennifer Alexander, followed by Dr Sherene Devaneson and Dr Lee Gruner. These were significant appointments in the times and having met them all I find they continue to be proud and passionate contributors to building the College presence.

In an  interview conducted last year as part of a medical leadership project funded under the STP Dr Jennifer Alexander reflecting on her role as a medical leader observed that self-awareness and self-belief plays an important role as a medical leader – “You are very exposed as a leader, in terms of your personality traits, strengths and weaknesses …. You need to be aware of them, and understand how they affect you as a leader.”

Dr Devanesen is now Chief Executive Officer of Yooralla in Victoria and while we have not been able to interview Sherene ourselves we borrow from a recently published interview which identifies that she  started her medical career in an Indian village at a hospital set up by an Australian missionary. Sherene is passionate about creating change and about working with your colleagues, customers and family members. “To me, it’s about entering life-long relationships with people and listening to them”. “What is important is learning what the customers want and making sure that we respond and make a difference”. 
(You can read this interview at: You can read this interview at https://www.yooralla.com.au/news-and-media/news-items/Dr-Sherene-Devanesen-inspirational-women-and-a-passion-to-create-change )

Just as Sherene talks about passion so too does Dr Lee Gruner in one of our medical leader interviews –“It’s hard to be a leader in anything unless you have a passion for it”. As well as passion Lee describes the need for persistence. She said, “If you have a patient in front of you and treat them, it’s instant gratification in most cases. You treat them, and you normally know within a day, a month or two months, that they’re better or their symptoms are much alleviated. When implementing organisational change, it can take months or years. You have to be able to say to yourself that it’s ok. It’s the right thing to do, and you need to work through it.”

These Fellows reflections echo those of Dr Ian Brand when talking about how he moved the motion to form the College and then found himself delivering the teaching program and examining, “…that’s how it happened; we just got together and we did it.”

The interview with Dr Ian Brand and many more interviews with Fellows from all jurisdictions will be publish throughout the year. In this Issue we publish from his interview a piece about Dr Don Mackie of New Zealand.

In this 50th year we will be inviting all Jurisdictional Committees to consider nominations for the inaugural Distinguished Fellow Awards. The Board is seeking to make these awards to those in your community who may have sustained the practice of medical administration/leadership/management to the exemplary level. A national selection will be made from those nominated by the jurisdictional committees and the awards with citations will be presented at the Langford Oration and graduation ceremony during the 2017 50th anniversary scientific meeting in October in Melbourne.

Dr Karen Owen
Chief Executive

Last Updated on Monday, 10 April 2017 15:42