The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is encouraging GPs to register for its Future Leaders program, and gain the skills and confidence to lead positive change.
The RACGP’s Future Leaders program brings together 24 GPs from across Australia to learn leadership skills and techniques to achieve change for good – including advocacy, influencing and strategic thinking.
Each participant undertakes a project of their choice during the program and is supported by a mentor.
Now in it’s third year, the program has supported participants to go on to make extraordinary impacts on their communities and beyond – including becoming public speakers and advocates on a variety of health issues, from children’s mental health to planetary health.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price said the next generation of GP leaders was needed more than ever.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has really highlighted the need for support for the next generation of GP leaders,” she said.
“Not only are we battling this public health crisis, but we are also dealing with increasing health misinformation, which is underminding our ability to get on top of the virus and protect our community through vaccination.
“GPs, through virtue of our expertise and bond of trust with our patients and communities, are naturally seen as leaders, however, they rarely have formal leadership training.
“Our Future Leaders program has proven extraordinarily successful in equipping GPs who want to take that step to lead and make a real difference in their own community and beyond.
“If we have more GP leaders speaking out and advocating in our community it can help raise awareness of health issues, improve health literacy, and combat dangerous misinformation.”
Future Leaders alumni Dr Andrew Leech, who practices in Cannington, Western Australia, has a growing profile as a leader and public speaker in children’s mental health. He has launched his own podcast and blog, and regularly appears on other podcasts, webinars, and writes for magazines.
“I was drawn to children’s mental health after having more and more parents come to me worried about their kids, and seeing children with anixeity,” he said.
“Mental health is the most common presentation GPs see, and the pandemic, lockdowns and homeschooling have only made matters worse.”
Dr Leech said it was important for GPs to speak up.
“GPs are a trusted source of reliable information – we tend to know a bit about everything when it comes to health, and this is why we are considered leaders, not only with our patients but across the whole community,” he said.
“However, we tend to shy away from speaking to the media and the public. I recently did a talk on immunisation, which really highlighted why it’s important for GPs to take on more public leadership roles – we need to speak up, so we don’t get drowned out by groups speading misinformation.”
Another former participant Dr Tammra Warby, who practices in Coomera, Queensland, joined the Future Leaders program to gain the skills to play a leadership role in planetary health.
“I got into planetary health, after seeing people with health issues in my area stemming from environmental issues, such as trees being cut down, construction dust and pollution,” she said.
“When I started researching, I discovered how the environment impacts our health, it was much bigger than anything I could have imagined, and I felt I had to do something about it.”
Since setting out on a path to raise awareness of planetary health among family doctors and the medical community, Dr Warby has made great strides. She led the development of a Declaration calling for family doctors of the world to act on planetary health. The declaration was adopted by the World Organisation of Family Doctors and sent to general practice colleges in over 130 countries, as well as being published by prominent medical journals, including the British Medical Journal and The Lancet.
Dr Warby has flown internationally to speak on her leadership journey in planetary health, including at a women’s leadership conference at Harvard Medical School.
“I first went to the conference as a participant – I was passionate about planetary health but wasn’t sure how I could help. I was advised to do a leadership skills course, which led me to the Future Leaders program.
“Future Leaders gave me the ability to seek out leadership opportunities, it opened doors I couldn’t have imagined for myself – I never would have thought I’d be invited back to Harvard to speak at the conference.
“I highly recommend this program, for any GP interested in leadership it’s a great place to start.”
The RACGP is seeking GPs who are passionate about their profession and interested in advancing their leadership skills to sign up 2022 RACGP Future Leaders program information night. Applicants must be RACGP Fellows with some previous leadership experience who can commit to around four hours per week.
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