Austin Health Medical Alumni Association


Newsletter 13
February 2022

Welcome to the February 2022 e-newsletter of your Association.
The newsletter contains a round-up of events held throughout the year and news of events planned for the future.
Past issues can accessed by  clicking here

If you know of any colleagues who are not receiving our emails, then please let us know by clicking here.  Or forward this email to them so they can sign up here
Anyone who has worked at the Austin Hospital, Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, or the Royal Talbot Hospital in any medical capacity is automatically an Alumnus of the AHMAA.

Welcome to new interns, registrars, residents and medical students, who have begun their appointments.

The Austin Diaspora 

We have received a few stories from Alumni and are are always happy to hear from people and share their news. Austin alumni are providing vital health care in diverse communities including metropolitan, regional, rural, remote and overseas. Please let us know if you have some news to share.


Search the internet for 'Fly River' in Papua New Guinea and you will see reports from Ichthyologists, Hydrologists, Prospecting Geologists and likely the OKTedi mine.  2021 ID Registrar, Dr George Drewett, has moved to Daru in the Fly River delta to begin his work with the Burnet Institute and Daru General Hospital in treating and preventing drug-resistant TB. George has begun assisting inpatient care and outpatient clinics and is finding the work rewarding.  He is also busy enjoying the abundant seafood and learning some of the more widely spoken languages of the area. Reducing the Impact of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (RID-TB) is a project delivered by Burnet working in close partnership with the Western Provincial Health Authority (WPHA), Daru General Hospital (DGH), and World Vision. For more info on the RID-TB project, visit: Link to photo of The Daru General Hospital

Austin Clinical School 

We continue to offer a mixture of online and real life learning experiences for our students. 2nd Year MD students are attending three clinical placement days a week at the hospital, and the other two days they continue with their online curriculum. Teaching is still being run virtually at this stage but hoping to go back to face-to-face soon. MD2 students are currently completing their foundation term.

3rd Year MD students are continuing with their rotations in General Practice, Mental Health, Aged Care, Women’s, and Children’s Health. The MD Research Skills 2 (MDRS2) unit is starting again soon.  The MDRS2 research activity will run for 16 weeks in 2022, commencing in May, with project presentations during September. These research activities are different from the “traditional” MD research projects (MDRP) and do not involve any data collection and can be completed remotely.
MD3 students will be completing this research activity part-time alongside Year 3 clinical teaching. Each week, 1.5 days will be allocated to the research activity (every Monday plus another 0.5 days depending on the individual student’s clinical teaching timetable) to ensure appropriate work-load balance and student well-being.

In 2022, our 71 final year students (MD4) commenced clinical placement in February. They have been our most pandemic-affected cohort, however the continuation of a full year of pre-internship will see them work-ready. Our MD4s have enjoyed learning the role of an intern under your guidance and with the enthusiastic support from all the ward teams. Your feedback has suggested that the final year students have been quite useful in supporting the ward teams, especially at times of staff furlough. Thank you again for your generous clinical supervision and teaching of our MD4s, and we hope you have the opportunity to work with them across the year, as well as when they enter the workforce in 2023.

Austin Clinical School Team

Austin News 2022

A note from the Austin Health Chief Executive Officer 


Dear Alumni, 

I began my journey with Austin Health more than 18 months ago, in June 2020 and it has been a privilege to lead the team during such a complex time.  

I grew up in the UK and came to Australia in 2005. My background has largely been in healthcare, both in Victoria and in the UK. Prior to joining Austin Health, I was Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer at Melbourne Health after also spending time with Monash Health, DHHS and the Department of Premier and Cabinet. 

My priority at Austin Health has been to lead the COVID response for the North East, which included setting up and leading the North East Public Health Unit (NEPHU). NEPHU is led in collaboration with Eastern Health and Northern Health, and is one of nine public health units across metropolitan and regional Victoria, established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

With teams based at each of our partner health services, we use our local knowledge and understanding of our communities and suburbs to manage the spread of COVID-19.  

We recently celebrated the first anniversary of the first COVID-19 vaccination at Austin Health, and are proud to have provided more than 1.4 million vaccination doses through the clinics at St Vincent’s Health, Eastern Health, Northern Health and Austin Health. 

In September I was asked to act in a secondment role as the Deputy State Controller, Health Service Operations within the Victorian Government’s Department of Health. For two months I stepped away from Austin Health to focus on this role, helping direct the coordinated response to COVID for our hospitals across Victoria. Further to this, I stepped back into the Deputy Controller role on a part-time basis during January and February in response to the Omicron outbreak (while also maintaining my role at Austin Health). 

Outside of our response to the pandemic, the Austin Health team has been doing a terrific job of providing excellent care to our patients.  

A particular highlight came in August 2021 when we introduced a new, state-of-the-art radiation therapy machine to the ONJ Cancer Centre. The first of its kind in Victoria, the MR-Linac uses high quality magnetic resonance (MR) imaging to target tumours in real time, providing precise treatment and minimising damage to the surrounding tissue. This means tumours can be treated with greater accuracy, reducing side effects for patients while potentially increasing the control we have over the cancer. 

I have also been working closely with the Austin Health Foundation to advance a number of philanthropic projects. If you are interested in hearing more about these or how you could be involved please let me know. 

Looking to the future, it’s very much about continuing to provide safe, person-centred care to our patients and managing the ongoing response to the pandemic. On the horizon is the establishment of a state-wide child and family mental health centre in Macleod and a new Eltham Community Hospital.  In addition to this, we are currently undertaking a Master Plan exercise with the Department of Health, to help establish the case for the future development of Austin Health’s facilities in order to meet continued growth in demand for our services. 

A key focus for us over the coming months will be to re-establish elective surgery and other services that we have had to run at limited capacity during our pandemic response.  We are cognisant of the impact that this has had for patients waiting to receive care and our commitment is to be able to provide improved access to care, while still being able to respond to the ongoing demands of COVID-19. 


Adam Horsburgh 

Trainee News


COVID continues to affect training programs. Last year the RACP 2021 clinical examination was conducted again in a modular format. We are very proud of our trainees for the resilience they displayed both working and studying through these unusual, challenging times.  Our 2022 candidates sat their RACP written exam in February. Unfortunately, some exam centres were affected by technical difficulties. Affected trainees will be offered a repeat exam in early March and results will be available soon. We are hopeful that the clinical exam preparation program can return to more face-to-face teaching, practice short- and long cases, specialty days, mock exams, etc. We wish to thank our supervisors, educators and examiners for voluntarily spending countless hours to support all our trainees. We couldn't do it without them. Thank you. Dr Suet-Wan Choy & Dr Scott Patterson Training Program Co-Directors Austin Health Central North West BPT Consortium incorporating: Austin Health, Bendigo Health, Northern Health, Wimmera Healthcare Group

Honours and Awards

We are very pleased that the following member of the Austin Community has been honoured.

Australia Day 2022

Associate Professor Mehrdad NIKFARJAM,  Medal of the Order of Australia
For service to medicine in the field of pancreas and biliary surgery.
Dr Nikfarjam is one of the highest volume liver, pancreas and biliary surgeons in Australia and is instrumental in leading world class interventions and research into pancreas and liver cancer. 
Dr Nikfarjam is also a founder of Pancare Foundation – a national not-for-profit organisation that aims to improve the survival and support for Australians diagnosed with pancreatic, liver, stomach, biliary and oesophageal cancer.

We congratulate Dr Mehrdad Nikfarjam.



We are saddened by the deaths of our esteemed colleagues;
Dr Andrew Hilton 30/5/1959 - 30/1/2022,
Mr Gabriel (Bill) Kune 21/12 /1933 - 29/10/2021 and
Dr Ben MacMahon Wadham 27/3/1927 - 8/9/2021 

Andrew Hilton 
30/5/1959 - 30/1/2022
The Austin sadly lost a quiet giant of intensive care on 30 January this year. Andrew Hilton was deputy director of the ICU and made major contributions to the practice of critical care at an international level for over three decades. 

Andrew was born 30 May 1959 at Albury Base Hospital to Kent and Lorraine Hilton. During his early childhood the Hilton family lived in Albury, Sydney and Canberra, and he commenced at Downer Primary School in the ACT at the start of 1964. As a child, Andrew developed a near insatiable interest in just about everything, but especially music, sport, astronomy, space exploration, science, literature, and film. In 1975 Andrew commenced secondary schooling at Watson High School in Canberra, moving to Albury High School for the last two years of secondary education in 1976. During these teenage years, he established a long-term love affair with fast cars (preferably performance BMWs) and commenced many close friendships that would endure for the rest of his life. 

In 1978 Andrew started as a medical student at The University of New South Wales. During the holidays he would head back to Albury to stay with family and work in the Haberfield Cheese factory. By 1983 he commenced at the old Canberra Hospital and an intern. Andrew’s professional interests were focussed on critical care, and he embarked on anaesthesia training, gaining fellowship in 1990. For several years, Andrew advanced his skills and experience at Duke University Hospital in North Carolina and became widely recognised for his cardiac anaesthesia and echocardiography skills. Ultimately, he returned to Australia and progressed with Intensive Care specialist training, commencing as a consultant at the Alfred in 2000. Over the next ten years Andrew became established as a highly regarded intensivist and global authority on both critical care echocardiography and ECMO. 

In 2011, Andrew came north of the Yarra to join the Austin ICU. He established an ICU-based echocardiography program, set up ICU led ECMO and contributed enormously to the life of Austin Health. During the subsequent decade, he was appointed to the role of deputy director of ICU, became an Associate Professor with the University of Melbourne, was Censor of the College of Intensive Care Medicine, was elected to the ANZICS honour roll and received the ANZICS President’s medal for life-time services to Intensive Care. 

While Andrew’s appointments, achievements and awards speak for themselves, those many of us who knew and loved him have all lost much more than a highly regarded professional colleague… 

Andrew was the consummate intensivist operating at the highest level of clinical judgment, skill, knowledge, and expertise. He demonstrated what was possible with detailed planning, exquisite execution, inspired leadership, and teamwork. His ability to calmly determine the best approach during a complex crisis was without peer. In addition, his use of echocardiography to rapidly diagnose and tailor therapy in the critically ill patient helped shift ultrasound from a peripheral role in ICU to a central element of modern practice. While he insisted on the highest and most exacting standards of echocardiography, he was also always encouraging and supportive of anyone who wished to learn. 

 Andrew was a born teacher, but not just in terms of didactic teaching or lectures. His practice, his conversations and his leadership were eloquent demonstrations of how to provide care with great technique, extensive knowledge, and kindness. In many ways, he was rarely instructional, preferring to draw out the best from trainees and colleagues by providing suggestions, pointers, or recommendations on how they might best achieve their full potential. Through his mentorship and guidance, Andrew was instrumental in shaping the careers of junior colleagues who now work across the whole of Australia and beyond. 

Andrew had a strong interest in clinical ethics and enjoyed complex philosophical debate. He was instinctively driven to side with the underdog and abhorred the abuse of power, exploitation of anyone vulnerable and the ugliness of prejudice. Andrew was expert at exploring extremely complex and challenging issues to find a way forward that afforded fairness, consistency and compassion. He had the courage to speak truths that could sometimes be uncomfortable. He was very much able to recognise the “right” way forward, even when this might conflict with self-interest, and whilst strongly committed to collaboration wherever possible, he also understood the need to take a tough principled stance when there was no other way. He was comfortable adopting the contrarian’s view when it was essential to contest key ideas, and wonderful conversations would inevitably ensue. Occasionally disagreeing with Andrew could be an exhilarating experience and it was always definitely a learning opportunity. Andrew reminded us that acknowledging our own humanity is central to our role of caring for others. His moral compass would never waver. 

As a person, Andrew had the rare gift of seeing and appreciating people exactly as they are. Whilst he was quietly spoken and not especially extroverted, people of all backgrounds would be drawn to him and discuss literally anything and everything. He was genuinely interested in people; their stories, their ideas, their differences, and their similarities. In turn, he was not just appreciated or respected- Andrew was loved by those who came to know him. 

We have lost a great colleague, mentor and friend, but his family have lost something far more precious. Andrew preferred to deal with his cancer diagnosis quite privately, however when it was the right time for him and his family, there was an opportunity to celebrate and share what he meant to so many of us. During the last several weeks of his life, Ingrid, Sam, Max and Ethan extended remarkable warmth and kindness to all who came to visit and farewell Andrew; we are all grateful that they could share with us him during this most challenging time. Their loving care for Andrew during his final days was both humbling and inspiring to all who visited and will leave an indelible impact. 

Farewell Andrew. You have left us too soon, but we are forever better for having had the privilege to work with you, learn from you and call you our friend.

Obituary prepared by Stephen Warrillow. 

Gabriel Andrew (Bill) Kune 
21/12 /1933 – 29/10/2021 

Gabriel was an early multicultural Australian. Born in eastern Hungary, he experienced the German invasion then the Russian. His family migrated to Australia when he was 14. Although he spoke or understood 7 languages, his English was rudimentary when he entered Melbourne Boys High School. He Australianised his name by adding an E, and taking the nickname, Bill.  

He entered medicine at the University of Melbourne in 1952, graduating in 1957 with honours in most subjects. 

After residencies at The Royal Melbourne Hospital he obtained his FRACS in 1962. Following surgical registrar posts at Guys and St Mary's Hospitals London, he was first assistant to Ken Warren at the Lahey Clinic in Boston where he developed a life -long interest and skill in bile duct surgery. 

Back in Melbourne the appointment to the Honorary Staff at the Royal Melbourne was an enormous achievement for him in Melbourne surgical society. Not satisfied with this, and having a keen interest in clinical research, he became the inaugural University of Melbourne professor of surgery at the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg. There he developed his own department, with an interest in cancer prevention.  As a surgeon he was very loyal to his staff, at all levels. An excellent rapport was soon established with his Repatriation colleagues, and a symbiosis with the department of surgery at the Austin. 

Kune was a careful, thorough surgeon, excellent student and registrar teacher, popular and respected. He had a keen sense of humour especially, of pompous senior colleagues!  

He was a wonderful colleague, a kind, generous and thoughtful man. With wide contacts in Europe, USA and Asia, he leaves a legacy for Australia. He enjoyed life: skiing, surfing, bike riding, tennis with his friend George Hempel. He was intensely proud of his family, wife Susan and son Randall.  He will be remembered. 

Obituary prepared by Ken Hardy. 

Ben MacMahon Wadham 
27/3/1927 - 8/9/2021 

The Austin Hospital recognizes the fine career of Ben Wadham who was a much-loved Director of Pathology at Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital over several decades. Ben was an example of the very best in public medicine. No doubt in part due to the example of his father Sir Samuel Wadham, who is regarded as the father of scientific agriculture in Australia. 

Ben is remembered both as an innovator and as a leader who had a strong personal interest in the careers of all his staff. He was also the Veteran's Affairs Commonwealth Consultant in Pathology, which demanding task he skilfully discharged 

Ben's was a career of outstanding service, totally devoid of personal gain and financial advancement. He was responsible for a state-of-the art pathology building and very early innovation in computing when other hospitals were still using pen and paper. He also had a naval career like Grant Pattison. They were good friends as they had done their post-graduate studies together at the Hammersmith. Ben was in the naval reserve.   

He retired to a sea captain's cottage in Point Lonsdale where he had a telescope in the tower to watch the boats coming through the heads. Such was the regard that he was held in that many of his old staff visited he and Judy at Point Lonsdale. 

Ben was part of a leadership team which included Ken Millar, Dr Catarinich, Gabriel Kune, Jack Martin and Lorna King. There was a collegiality and singularity of purpose which I had never experienced elsewhere. Of course the duty of care to returned servicemen was very strong binding principle.   

Ben will be remembered as a kind and gentle man who was always helpful to others. 

Obituary prepared by Des Parkin 

Annual Dinner

The annual dinner for 2021 did not proceed, due to attendance restrictions for public health.  We are planning to host the dinner in November.  All Alumni are welcome at this event.  Further details will follow.

Please send me a reminder in September about the 2022 Dinner


Golf Day

The annual Austin Health Medical Alumni Golf Day is planned for Friday, 2nd December 2022 at Kew Golf Club.
Our Alumni are encouraged to play in this longstanding and happy event.  Further details will follow

Please send me a reminder in September 2022 about the golf day


We look forward to welcoming you back to Austin Health and keeping in touch with all out Alumni.

Gwynne Thomas

Emeritus Associate Professor Gwynne W Thomas OAM

Austin Health Medical Alumni Association
PO BOX 5555 Heidelberg, Victoria 3084. telephone 03 9496 5896
Secretary Geraldine Richards; telephone 03-9496 5896

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Austin Health Medical Alumni Association, Austin Health · PO Box 5555 · Heidelberg, Vic 3084 · Australia