7 MINUTE READ
2019 has been an excellent year of consolidating activities and connections within the fellowship in Queensland. We continue to strengthen both our relationships and structure, at both a leadership (committee) and community (membership/contacts) level.
I am reminded of Prof John Vance, a Christian colleague in paediatrics, who sadly died last year. Rev John Arnold commented on John’s love of committees in his eulogy:
“He thrived in them, because he loved the interaction it gave him with people. He believed in the power of pooled wisdom, robust discussion and group consensus – that this was the way to get things done, to get things changed for the better. For John, committees were not just talk-fests or empire building exercises. They were a means to making this world a more just and compassionate place, to defend the rights of the vulnerable and to give them hope. It required patience and perseverance, imagination and determination to implement policy decisions. He believed in the long-term potential of committees. He loved them.”
I conceptualise our state committee more as a leadership team. While we perhaps need to re-brand the idea of a committee (which perhaps is tied to institution and unnecessary formality), we want to try and maintain and enhance the functions of a committee as John Vance presented and modelled in his life.
Perhaps this is why we have seen a rebranding of the term committee while still trying to promote teamwork and collaboration. For example, in the United Kingdom there is now the concept of Catalyst Teams that the Christian Medical Fellowship in the UK has developed.
“Forming a Catalyst Team has allowed us to rethink what we are doing in the region and why. It has revitalised the region. From a tired monthly meeting, we now have a junior doctor group, a student group and are looking towards hospital multidisciplinary groups as well. We are so thankful for how God has blessed this work and what he is doing in the region.” (Dr Angela Wilksinson, Catalyst Team Leader, Mersey, UK).
Our committee continues to function well and we have met on a couple of occasions. Dr Anthony Herbert is Chair (and also acting Treasurer) and Dr Richard Wong is Secretary. Other members of the committee include Dr Joseph Thomas, Dr Hayley Thomas, Dr Paul Mercer and Dr Tash Yates. It has been great to have Dr James Barton (a trainee in psychiatry) join our group in recent times – representing recent graduates.
We have run a number of successful events in 2019:
• Fellowship Afternoon, Saturday 23 March – approx. 20 in attendance.
• Annual Dinner, Saturday 1 June – Dr Tash Yates spoke on resilience and approx 40 were in attendance (this included a table of dentists, students as well as partners, nurses and allied health professionals).
• Saline Process Training Event, Saturday 3 August – approx 20 in attendance. Feedback from the day included positivity about “the connections made – people, knowledge and experience” and “relevant, simple straightforward concepts”. Another benefit was “having time to feedback and discuss” and “having a patient we followed through.” It gave people an “opportunity to experience community” and “time to slow down and reflect”. “Nice to meet the people – other medical Christians! What a treat.”
• MSI (formerly Medical Services International) Professional Services Evening, Friday 25 October – approx 20 in attendance, Dr David Leung (President of MSI) spoke. A similar event was held on the Gold Coast on Saturday 26 October.
• End of Year Event – Planned for Saturday 14 December at Anne Street Church of Christ. This was a chance to give thanks for the year, provide some input to graduating students embarking on internship and a prayer dedication in this context too.
A pizza welcome lunch was held at the University of Queensland. We try and provide support to the students at the four universities in Queensland as much as we are able (University of Queensland, Griffith University, Bond University and James Cook University). Senior students were able to attend the VISION weekend, and a number of students from Queensland were also able to travel to Sydney for the IMPACT conference. We are particularly thankful to Imogen Gilpin and other students within the ‘Christians in Medicine’ group who have liaised with the committee so well. A dinner was held at the home Dr Charles Nankivell, general surgeon as a time of fellowship for students. Thank you to Crystal Seng for organising this evening. Approx 20 students attended. On this night we grappled in smaller groups and graduate leaders on questions such as:
• What has been the most difficult challenge as a Christian that you have encountered in the workplace, and how did you deal with it?
• What are your thoughts on how Christians may have to navigate the assisted-dying space?
• What kind of specialties would you say are most useful for overseas missions, particularly to the marginalised/ unreached of the world?
• What degree of commitment do you believe we should have to church ministry if we are already heavily involved in it as medical students?
• What are some ways of being able to balance out ministry commitments with life as a doctor?
• Are there any hard compromises that you found you had to make?
• In what ways does being a Christian impact your approach to your work every day?
There are regional fellowships on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Townsville. There was some helpful collaboration between the Gold Coast and Brisbane groups this year. Dr Tash Yates spoke at the annual dinner and Dr Anthony Herbert presented on “How to respond when a patient dies”, on Saturday, 2 March on the Gold Coast. We would like to try and support fellowships in other regions (e.g., Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Cairns) as able. We have been thinking through ways of supporting those in regional and rural areas (e.g. via Zoom or Skype meetings, and video or audio recordings of meetings).
Approximately 18 members from Queensland attended the national conference in Canberra. Recent graduates through to retired doctors were present, from all regions of Queensland. The theme of Healing in Mind, Body and Spirit resonated with us all.
Another seed of need that has been present in 2019 is that of pastoral care. Care and support has been provided to medical trainees having difficult times at work, bereaved spouses and a missionary from Papua New Guinea (Dr David Moore) visiting Brisbane and the Gold Coast for a conference and further training. There has also been opportunity to support colleagues who have themselves had a diagnosis of a serious illness, or a loved one who has been diagnosed with a serious illness. Healthcare of colleagues, or their relatives, with issues related to immigration and re-settlement, has been another tangible issue where we could provide support.
We acknowledge members and Christian colleagues who have died in 2019 including Dr Brian Smith (1930-2019), Dr Hugh Nelson (1948-2019) and Dr John Vance (1942-2019). We give thanks for their life of service and Christian commitment to their patients, families, community and the church.
The main ethical issue that we have encountered in Queensland has been that related to ‘Euthanasia and PhysicianAssisted Suicide’ (EPAS). This is our preferred term, although the Queensland government uses the term Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD). CMDFA made a submission to the Queensland Parliament inquiry into aged care, end-of-life and palliative and voluntary assisted dying. We tabled the CMDFA publications A Response to Euthanasia in Australia and Christian Conscience in Healthcare. We have also partnered closely with Health Professionals Say No! Members of CMDFA also partnered with the Australian Christian Lobby to run a number of forums at locations such as Townsville, Wynnum and Central Brisbane. A breakfast was held on Friday 11 October at City North Baptist church where Dr Megan Best (Bioethicist, Researcher and Palliative Care Physician), Anna Walsh (lawyer) and, Member of Parliament, Fiona Simpson were present.
We are aware of the potential of partnerships with other groups. The Hospital Bible Forum ran a breakfast on Saturday 31 August where Dr Sam Chan presented Going Viral: Sharing the Good News with your Colleagues. There is further potential for us to participate in hospital-based small groups. We have also had good collaborations with mission organisations such as MSI, Interserve and WEC. WEC has provided a solid venue for many of our ministry activities in 2019.
We appreciate the wisdom that Dr Paul Mercer can offer both the Queensland committee and the fellowship in general. Paul is currently Chair of Healthserve Australia and has just recently retired as the Editor of Luke’s Journal. The last edition that he edited was appropriately titled, Laughter is the Best Medicine (Volume 24 No. 2). Paul started editing the journal with Dr John Foley in 2006 (Volume 11 No. 1) in an edition with the theme, In Health and in Sickness. Thank you Paul for this period of 14 years of service and fruitful ministry as editor of our national Journal.
It was encouraging to hear the wisdom and the vulnerability shared by both the panel members and those in the audience. There was agreement that we needed to have more of these kinds of discussion because this is such an important topic, and it is something that we should be striving to be excellent in.”
Dr Tash Yates
Tash is a medical educator and GP on the Gold Coast
Dr Anthony Herbert
Anthony is Chair of the CMDFA Qld Branch. He is a paediatrician specialising in paediatric palliative care in Queensland. He is also the current chair of the Queensland Branch of CMDFA.
Back to issue: #CMDFAlyf