Voting opens in RACP presidential election

Medical politics

By Geir O'Rourke

18 Mar 2024

Voting has commenced in the RACP’s presidential and board election, with five candidates in the running for the college leadership.

Conducted online, this year’s election will also feature a vote for two member director positions on the RACP board – contested between eight candidates – while four doctors are vying for the position of trainee director.

In order of ballot position, the nominees for the position of president-elect are:

  • Dr Sharmila Chandran
  • Dr George Laking
  • Dr John O’Donnell
  • A/Professor Nada Hamad
  • Professor Graeme Maguire

A renal physician based in Melbourne, Dr Chandran is campaigning for transparency and pragmatism in the RACP leadership, with a focus on member communication, advocacy, and modernisation of the RACP.

“I bring a modern and diverse perspective and an informed commitment to RACP,” she said in her candidate profile.

“With your support, I am confident that RACP can be transformed into an institution that we all wish to be a part and proud of.”

An FRACP examiner at Epworth-Richmond, previously at Eastern and Monash Health, she is also a current board director at the RACP.

Dr George Laking, a medical oncologist in New Zealand, centred his campaign on advocacy issues, particularly the war in the Middle East, but said he also wanted to “decolonise” the college.

“At the start of 2024, Israel stands accused of genocide in Gaza,” Dr Laking wrote in his candidate statement.

“More than 10,000 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli operations.”

“This is a crisis in Indigenous child health, and a major test for the College’s Indigenous Object. As President-Elect I will lead the College to find its voice in support of Palestinian Indigenous health.”

Dr Laking said he would also like to see the RACP surrender its ‘royal’ title “the better to align with the disempowered”.

Also based in New Zealand is clinical immunologist and immunopathologist Dr John O’Donnell, who said he would aim to refocus the college on its education and training role.

He said a key concern was the college not currently meeting all accreditation standards with the Australian Medical Council (AMC), particularly at a time when it had lost its monopoly on CPD.

“Division and erosion of reputation brings with it a diminished influence in provision of the essential professional focus that the principles of medical professionalism demand in the credentialling processes of health jurisdictions,” he said.

“Loss of effective input into the development of credentialling requirements exposes the medical profession to the risk of coercion and manipulation.”

“As a priority the College must maintain full AMC accreditation while maintaining its status as the preferred CPD provider.”

“As president-elect I would commit myself to those goals. To achieve that will need support and commitment from all members.”

Associate Professor Nada Hamad, a clinician research and haematologist at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, said she would bring a broad range experience and a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion if elected to the role.

In her candidate statement, she also highlighted her “cultural fluidity”, which she said had given her a deep understanding of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Maori culture.

“I have a passion for medical education, equity, diversity and inclusion and leadership and governance as a means of delivering better health care for our diverse populations in Australia and New Zealand as well as improving the experience and wellbeing of our increasingly diverse and precious medical workforce,” she said.

“I have been able to effectively lead my professional body Australia and New Zealand Transplant and Cellular Therapies as board director and chair towards a patient outcome and equity focused strategic plan.”

“I am a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company directors and I have been privileged to have lived experience and a rich career with exposure to health systems in Canada, US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.”

Closing out the list of candidates is general/respiratory physician Professor Graeme Maguire, the director of medical education for regional Western Australia and current RACP Adult Medicine Division president.

Professor Maguire’s candidate statement outlined his extensive leadership experience, and broad array of relevant skills across governance, strategy, financial and legal.

“I have dealt with the AMC through multiple programs (medical school, prevocational, IMGs etc),” he said.

“I appreciate the legislative environment that our College operates under including the Corporations Act/ACNC.”

Finally, Professor Maguire noted that as the partner of an RACP employee, he had an insight into the workings of the college from a staff perspective, as well as that of a physician.

Voting for the vacant positions began on Friday, 15 March 2024 and will run until Tuesday, 16 April 2024.

The provisional results will be released on Wednesday, 24 April 2024 and confirmed at the Annual General Meeting on Friday, 17 May 2024.


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