Austin Health Medical Alumni Association


Newsletter 14
June 2022

Welcome to the June 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

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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.

Associate Professor Elif Ekinci began her association with the Austin as a medical student, continuing as an Intern and Registrar.  Now she combines her role as head of Diabetes Health at Austin with being the director of the Australian Centre for Accelerating Diabetes Innovations.

A/Prof Ekinci championed the project, by leading a comprehensive grant application process in 2021. The application was submitted through the University of Melbourne and involved 70 partners across Australia. 

The Australian Centre for Accelerating Diabetes Innovations (ACADI) was established through $10 million dollars of MRFF funding from the Australian Government’s Targeted Translation Research Accelerator program. Along with co-contributions from academic and industry partners brought total initial funding to $23.3 million. MTPConnect, a not-for-profit organisation aiming to accelerate the rate of growth of the medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceutical (MTP) sector in Australia helped deliver the Australian Government funding.
“As a clinician researcher, I see first-hand the impact of diabetes related kidney disease, diabetes foot ulcers, neuropathy and amputations and life-threatening diabetes emergencies have on people living with diabetes and their families,” Associate Professor Elif Ekinci said. 

“I am looking forward to seeing the direct benefits for diabetes patients that new drugs, new devices, new invitro diagnostics, new digital health technologies and new behavioural interventions will bring.  It is our opportunity to work collaboratively across disciplines, state borders and health services to deliver the outcomes of innovative clinician researchers.”

The centre will use the funding to progress 18 research projects addressing diabetic kidney disease, peripheral neuropathy, diabetic foot syndrome, short-term complications of hypoglycaemia, hyperglycaemic hyperosmolar syndrome (HHS) and ketoacidosis and train the next generation of diabetes researchers.

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. MD2 students are currently completing their rotations in medical/surgery and ambulatory care.
MD3 students are continuing with their rotations in General Practice, Mental Health, Aged Care, Women’s and Children’s Health. The MDRS2 research activity has commenced, students are working on their written reports and oral presentations.
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 Medical Officer, Professor Mary O'Reilly

Dear Alumni,

As some of you will know my journey at Austin began as a medical student and continued as a junior doctor into the start of my Infectious Diseases training.

My career has varied, working initially as a General and Infectious Diseases Physician across a range of Health Services and then Director Infectious Diseases and Infection Prevention & Control at Eastern Health concurrently with a private Infectious Diseases practice at Cabrini. As ambulatory services expanded, I took on responsibility for Hospital in the Home (HITH) at Eastern Health and subsequently the Ambulatory Care Program as Executive Clinical Director.

I rejoined Austin as Medical Director, Quality and Patient Safety 4 years ago and after acting as CMO for 5 months have joined the Executive team as CMO.

I had a 3-month secondment to the Victorian Aged Care Response in 2020 to support the State and Commonwealth response to COVID in residential aged care facilities and continue Commonwealth committee work in relation to COVID issues in Residential Aged Care.

I have undertaken further training including a MPH and FRACMA and I have an adjunct Clinical Professorial appointment with Monash University.

Over this time my focus has been on quality care and translational research with involvement at state and national level in Medication Safety and executive roles in the HITH society. I have also taught and examined at both undergraduate and postgraduate level for both Melbourne and Monash Universities, the College of Physicians, RANZCA when they had physician examiners, and the Australian Medical Council.

My priorities at Austin Health have been a focus on both our patients, supporting high quality, patient centered care and our clinicians, particularly with the challenges of COVID.

In my new role I look forward to working with the Austin team furthering our reputation as a Centre of Excellence for clinical care, training research.

It’s good to be back!



Trainee News


2022 RACP written exam final results were delayed due to technical difficulties requiring some candidates to sit a repeat exam.
The final pass rate for Austin candidates was 96% (27 or 28). This is a fabulous result, particularly given the challenging times that junior doctors (in particular) have experienced.
The focus is now on preparation for the clinical examination scheduled to be conducted in the traditional (pre-COVID) manner in July/August 2022. 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


With a huge cohort of trainees having sat the Fellowship Exams in May 2022, we congratulate nine of our trainees – Zexi Allan, Aly Fayed, Grace Gold, Jasmina Kevric, Stephen Kunz, Matt Marino, Tegan Ormston, and Jason Wong – who have successfully passed after over a year of intensive study and training.

Many thanks must be given to our consultants and mentors who have given up much of their time and efforts to teach and train our SET5s to pass the exam.
More of our candidates will be attending the next sitting in August this year – a slew of morning tutorials and trainee-led practice exams will help them through.

Austin has historically had a strong program for getting our unaccredited general surgical registrars onto the training program. Many of our NSETs underwent their interviews last month, and we eagerly await the results from their SET applications. 

The Austin Northern Surgical Trainees Association (ANSA) have continued to be active in 2022. While education and exam preparation activities are going strong for the SET5 trainees, we have also run a set of interview workshops for our more junior trainees. While trainees are spread through multiple different hospitals in three different states, we maintain a sense of community and support through regular check-ins. These activities collectively support our members and their journey through the various hurdles on the way through surgical training.

This year, we hope to run a successful Gratias Cena thank-you dinner – an event which until now has been impossible with the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matthew Ng
Austin Northern Surgical Trainees Association (ANSA)


Austin Radiology’s 2022 exam candidates have continued to perform well, under an ever changing exam environment.
The part 1 candidates passed all their exam requirements.  The part 2 candidates have accomplished a great job in meeting the majority of the requirements, and will undoubtedly clean up the remaining components by year’s end.  

Recruitment for new trainees for 2023 has just completed and we await the outcome of the PMCV process.  Recruitment for 2023 fellows is near complete.  The new Radiology training program is currently in place and the team is working hard to enact the changes.

Natalie Yang
Consultant Radiologist
Director of Radiology


The ED Education team has enjoyed an increasing return to face-to-face teaching alongside our ongoing on-line components. This had made ED education more accessible and flexible.
It has been amazing to be back participating in our interprofessional and interdepartmental simulation training.
We have recently launched a Trauma In-Situ Simulation program MUST EQUIP.
We thank our trainees for their engagement and enthusiasm with the teaching program.

Sarah Kolb, Joseph Kim and Matt Birdsey have all passed their final training hurdle, the Fellowship OSCE. 
Su Aung, Saman Hanfee, Cate McLaren and Anthony Austin-Whishart were successful in the Primary VIVA.  
Congratulations to these trainees for their hard work and dedication.

Dr. Ruth Osborne 
Emergency Physician
Co-Director Emergency Medicine Training


Honours and Awards

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

 Queen's Birthday 2022

Dr Brendan MURPHY, Companion of the Order of Australia
For eminent service to medical administration and community health, particularly as Chief Medical Officer, and to nephrology, to research and innovation, and to professional organisations.

Dr Murphy was the CEO at Austin Health between 2004 - 2016.  He left the position to become Chief Medical Officer for Australia 2016 -2020.  Since July 2020 he has been the Secretary for the Commonwealth Department of Health.

Dr Robyn LANGHAM, Member of the Order of Australia
For significant service to renal health research, and to tertiary medical education
Dr Langham was a Registrar at Austin and has made significant contributions to rural medical health as well as health research

Dr Meron PITCHER. Member of the Order of Australia
For significant service to medicine, and to women's health.
Dr Pitcher was a student at the Austin and the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. She has made significant contributions to training and examining through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons as well as contributions to health promotion and health research and voluntary surgical work overseas.

We congratulate Dr Brendan Murphy, Dr Langham and Dr Pitcher



We are saddened by the deaths of our esteemed colleagues;
Dr Jos (Joseph) Xipell  01/02/1932 - 23/04/2022
Professor Peter Bladin 11/12/1928 - 11/05/2022
Professor Brian Buxton  15/04/1940 - 20/05/2022

Dr Jos (Joseph) Xipell 
01/02/1932 - 23/04/2022

Dr Joseph Michael Xipell (known as Jos) was born in Melbourne in 1932. His father, Dr Francis Xipell, was Spanish and had come to Australia as a young man, holding a Spanish medical degree. His degree was not recognised here so Francis went to Italy and there obtained a registerable degree. Francis returned to Australia and established a general practice in Canterbury. From here he served as an honorary outpatient physician at St Vincent’s with an interest in diabetes. He also served as the Spanish Consul for Melbourne. Francis married an Australian woman, Marie Gras-Y-Fort. 

Jos was educated at Camberwell Grammar School where he did well, coming runner-up to the dux of the college and excelling in football, tennis and cricket – the last as a spin bowler. He studied medicine at the University of Melbourne and during his student days played lacrosse for the university.  He graduated with high marks in 1957 via the St Vincent’s Clinical School. He served as a resident medical officer at St Vincent’s in 1958 and 1959. He then pursued training in pathology first at St Vincent’s where he was registrar in pathology in 1960 and 1961 and subsequently at Birmingham in the UK.
On his return to Australia he was appointed as a pathologist at the Austin Hospital, initially under the direction of Dr Harold Attwood. Here Jos remained for the rest of his medical career.
At the Austin Hospital he was highly regarded as a meticulous pathologist and he rose to be head of the Anatomical Pathology Department. He was a very competent general pathologist but had a special interest in renal disease and metabolic bone disease. He was a founder and the first curator of the Victorian Bone Tumour registry.

He had a broad range of interests outside medicine and had a strong interest in art. Over his life time he assembled a superb collection of early Australian paintings. He was as meticulous in his research and documentation of the provenance of his collection as he was in his approach to conducting autopsies; in the latter field he at times embarrassed surgeons when announcing his autopsy findings at clinical meetings at the Austin Hospital.

He also dabbled successfully in the stock market.
In mid-life he married Thecla Broderick and this led Jos to a new passion as the Brodericks were horse-racing enthusiasts. He and Thecla owned many successful horses including Helenus which won the Caulfield Guineas, the Rosehill Guineas and the Victoria Derby in the early 2000s.  Jos retired from medicine relatively early and then he and Thecla travelled extensively. Theirs was a very happy partnership.

Jos generously bequeathed his art collection to his old school, Camberwell Grammar, and also provided funds to ensure the ongoing upkeep of the collection as well as to provide for a new allied arts facility at the school. Sadly he was not well enough to attend the opening of the Xipell Collection at the school in April this year. 

Thecla predeceased him in early 2021 and, soon after, Jos’s own health deteriorated.  He wished to die at home and with the help of relatives, friends and his local GP this was successfully achieved.

Contributed by Dr John O’Sullivan who is a cousin to Jos, shared by St Vincent's Medical Alumni Association


Professor Peter Bladin 
11/12/1928 - 11/05/2022

Austin Health and the neurological community of Australia, patients and health professionals, have recently lost a visionary and inspirational leader with the passing of Peter Bladin.

Peter had a remarkable sense of humour and razor sharp wit. He was decisive, opinionated and justifiably proud of his heritage. His father was Air Vice Marshall Frank Bladin, who was sent to organise the defence of Darwin after the Japanese bombing and took the Japanese surrender as Chief of Staff of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan.

After completing school at Xavier College in Melbourne, Peter commenced his degree in medicine at the University of Melbourne. He distinguished himself by graduating first in his year in 1955 and receiving a University Blue in athletics. He spent part of his medical training in Mildura in a facility which had been requisitioned during the war years to increase teaching capacity. After graduating and completing his general medical training at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, he obtained a post at the National Hospital for Neurological Diseases, Queen Square, London in 1959 where he flourished in the academic environment of the world’s leading centre for neurology at the time.

Upon returning to Melbourne in 1961, he took up a consultant post at a St Vincent’s Hospital where his mentor Dr John Billings, the senior neurologist, enabled him to follow his passion for research in both stroke and epilepsy. It was at St Vincent’s that he established his system for stroke investigation and management which was literally decades ahead of its time. He saw patients in the emergency department and took those suitable for angiography directly to the suite on the same floor. In this way he was able to perform studies within the first hours of stroke onset, quite remarkable at the time. Interestingly, in those days direct arterial carotid artery puncture was the preferred mode of access and no untoward mishaps seemed to occur. This workflow arrangement that enabled him to show that ischaemic stroke was due to embolism from a more proximal source, a revolutionary concept at the time since in-situ, intracranial vessel thrombosis was the favoured mechanism. His seminal publication in radiology in 1964 remains a classic.

The establishment of the Austin hospital as a major academic Centre in the early 1960s provided the ideal opportunity for Peter to “run his own show’’. In 1966 he was enticed across to the Austin by Austin Doyle, the visionary professor of medicine, who was assembling an impressive array of talent in almost every discipline of medicine. Doyle’s philosophy was seamless integration of research into every aspect of clinical medicine and surgery, the perfect setting for Peter to flourish. He was appointed Director of Neurology, with instructions to build an academic neurological department, which he did in spades.

To establish an epilepsy program, in 1970 he travelled around the world, funded by a RACP scholarship, inspected other units in detail and had extensive consultations. He appreciated the importance of organized clinical programs and teams, as opposed to the model at that time of a sole consultant specialist. The initial team included Kevin Walsh, the founder of Neuropsychology in Australia, John Woodward, a dynamic neurosurgeon and Frank Vajda, neuropharmacologist who established drug assays and clinical trials. An epilepsy surgery program was established, including intracranial EEG studies.

At the time, epilepsy surgery was shunned by most neurologists, the procedure tainted by incorrect comparisons to psychosurgery. The Austin program flourished with excellent results. He carefully audited patient outcomes but became concerned about the post-operative psychosocial aspects. In 1989 he took a sabbatical and travelled around Australia, visiting patients in their homes, and did a comprehensive analysis of their medical and psycho-social outcome. He realized there was a ‘burden of normality’ in successfully treated patients and set up a program to investigate this phenomenon and lessen its impact.

In 1977 he established Australia’s first stroke unit against intense local resistance within the hospital. He rightly surmised that experts doing things well are likely to improve outcomes. This hypothesis was well and truly substantiated and management of patients after stroke by dedicated stroke units is now accepted practice worldwide.

Peter’s great gift was to bring people together and to inspire them. He realised that to have an impact on changing the face of medicine one had to concentrate on major problems affecting the brain. He had less patience for what he sometimes referred to as ‘’telephone book neurology” and wanted to focus on the significant public health problems of stroke and epilepsy. He established a series of annual workshops held at the Austin starting in the early “80s” over a decade or so alternating between epilepsy and stroke. He was supported by the leading academics from around the country, such as Mervyn Eadie from Brisbane, James Lance and James McLeod from Sydney and young emerging academics such as his trainees Geoff Donnan and Sam Berkovic at Austin and Stephen Davis from RMH. As these meetings grew, he foresaw the need to formalise the increasing interest in clinical research around the nation; he founded the Epilepsy Society of Australasia (ESA) and was influential in the formation of the Stroke Society of Australasia (SSA). He was also past president of the National Epilepsy Association of Australia and the Australian Society for Neuropsychology. He continued this great interest in stroke and epilepsy throughout his career.

He was ahead of his time in realising that research is a global business for which local resources must be carefully harnessed and used for the betterment of healthcare worldwide. He was a superb intuitive clinical neurologist, but always told his trainees that neurology was “much more than pupils and knee jerks”. He was troubled by the fact that epilepsy and stroke, the two most important neurological conditions affecting productive lives, with major psycho-social impact, were of little interest to many in the classical English neurological tradition. He set out to change this and, by the force of nature that he was, he succeeded brilliantly.

His scientific output included over 130 papers and a number of books covering epilepsy surgery outcomes, pioneering work in the use of peri-ictal SPECT to localize seizure onset and the use of evoked potentials in epilepsy. He had a passion for the history of epilepsy and of neurology more broadly. He infused the importance of research into his trainees.

Outside medicine Peter took to off-road driving before this became popular and his beaten up and well loved Range Rover was familiar on campus. He developed a passion for bird watching which gave him time away in the bush to think and conjure up his next project.

Tragically he lost his wife Dawn a few years ago and this had a major impact on him. His children, Chris, Lisl and Peter Mark have always been a major focus and supported him, together with his sisters, Sandy and Jacqueline. His passion for neurology was taken up by Chris, now a leading neurological academic, who continued Peter’s innovative legacy by introducing stroke telemedicine to Australia markedly improving stroke care to those in rural and remote areas.

Peter's passing leaves us both feeling a great personal loss, a huge void, like the loss of a very close relative. He was a significant catalyst of changes in health care for the better for those suffering neurological disorders in Australia and world-wide. He inspired a whole generation of neurologists to do better, to follow their dreams, to advocate for their patients and to dare to succeed against the odds.

Contributed by Frank Vajda, Sam Berkovic, Geoffrey Donnan, Stephen Davis, Richard Macdonell

Professor Brian Buxton 
15/04/1940 - 20/05/2022

We are saddened to learn of the recent passing of Professor Brian Buxton. Brian was a generous and accomplished clinical leader who made remarkable contributions as Director of Cardiac Surgery at Austin Health and developed a range of innovations that improved patient care around the world. 

 Brian was born in Melbourne and demonstrated a precocious talent for mathematics prior to being accepted into medicine at The University of Melbourne, from which he graduated in 1962. He then pursued surgical training both in Glasgow and at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. After a stint in civil aid service during the Vietnam War, Brian embarked on a vascular fellowship in the UK and subsequently worked in Africa. During the 1970s Brian developed his interest in cardiac surgery and undertook specialist training in the US. He chose to return to Australia instead of accepting a consultant position in America and was recruited to the Austin in 1978 by Prof Ken Hardy as a vascular surgeon with an interest in cardiac surgery. He also provided clinical service to the Epworth Richmond Hospital, the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. For a time, his cardiac surgery work was performed at St Vincent’s Hospital, however in 1986 a cardiac surgery unit was established at the Austin. Within a few years the Austin Department of Cardiac Surgery was performing over 600 procedures per year and was a highly respected academic unit, with a special service to the veteran community. 

 Over the next several decades, Brian exemplified excellence in clinical academia. He supported a range of talented colleagues and led world class research in the care of cardiac surgical patients. Brian researched and defined the now world leading practice of total arterial revascularisation. The Radial Artery Patency and Clinical Outcomes trial (RAPCO) conceived and conducted at the Austin Health was the largest clinical trial at the time. He was also highly influential in trialling the now common practice of perioperative administration of phosphodiesterase inhibitors for cardiac surgical patients. 

 In addition to numerous scientific papers, Brian co-wrote some of the most-referenced textbooks relating to aneurysm and coronary artery bypass surgery. By establishing a reputation for clinical and academic excellence, Brian elevated the profile of cardiac surgery at Austin Health to a globally significant level whereby both surgical trainees and patients would come to Heidelberg to benefit from his expertise. One of Brian’s greatest legacies is the International Fellowship program he offered to so many young surgeons from Asian countries including Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and India. He shaped the future of cardiac surgery in these countries with his mentorship and teaching. Thanks to his vision there are outstanding Austin trained cardiac surgeons across much of Asia, many European centres, Scandinavia, and the UK. Brian was also a wonderful collaborator with colleagues across various disciplines, and he often assisted during the early years of the Austin Liver Transplant program, as well as sharing expertise through his role as reviewer and editor for several major surgical journals. Brian also led the effort to create the ANZSCTS Cardiac Surgery Registry which has now become the benchmark for performance monitoring in our region. 

 Brian received many accolades during his lifetime. He was made a member of the Order of Australia and was awarded the rarely bestowed “Excellence in Surgery” award by the RACS in 2004. Even after his retirement, Brian remained closely involved with Austin Health and colleagues around the world for many years. Recent times brought many health challenges to Brian and limited his capacity to engage with friends, family and colleagues. He died on the morning of 17 May 2022 and will long be fondly remembered as an outstanding Austin surgeon, a great clinical leader, and a good friend to many. 

 Farewell Professor Brian Buxton- may you rest in peace. 

Contributed by Laurie Doolan, Siven Seevanayagam, Stephen Warrillow

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