DRIVERS conference unites junior doctors across regional Victoria

The inaugural Doctors for Regional Innovation, Vision, Excellence, Research and Scholarship (DRIVERS) conference was held in hybrid format on Saturday 16 October 2021, bringing together students, junior doctors and medical professionals from across Victoria.

Attendees were welcomed by Rebecca Phillips from the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, Professor Shane Bullock, Head of School of Monash Rural Health, and Associate Professor Janelle Brennan, Director of the North West Victoria Regional Training Hub. Three engaging keynotes drew from remarkable careers in medicine to share inspiring lessons for the next generation of regional doctors - Dr Nicola Yuen on quality improvement, Professor Tom Callaly on leadership and Dr Annette Holian on overcoming obstacles.

The conference provided an important platform for medical students and junior doctors to come together (both in person and online) to showcase projects and research taking place in regional health services across the state. There were over 35 presentations - from scientific orals, to case studies and poster presentations - all exploring ways to deliver better health outcomes for regional communities. Topics covered both hospital medicine and community practice, as well as medical education, including vaccine hesitancy, mortality following medical emergency team (MET) calls and addressing inequalities in rural surgery.

Associate Professor Janelle Brennan welcoming attendees at DRIVERS 2021“It was inspiring to see such innovative, high-quality projects presented by our future and emerging medical workforce. Events like DRIVERS are key to fostering a culture of discovery and excellence among our next generation of rural doctors and ensuring medical innovation in regional settings continues”, said Associate Professor Janelle Brennan and member of the DRIVERS 2021 scientific committee.

“I was very excited by what this event achieved and it made me proud of being both a rural clinical school alumna and current regional junior doctor,” added Dr Katie Blunt, Co-Chair of the DRIVERS steering committee.

“I loved that we were able to showcase leadership and the interesting academic output of regionally-based students and early career clinicians. I was thrilled that this event was able to be delivered in a hybrid model that ensured inclusivity. I see this event as an innovative example of what can be achieved in regional health education and hope to see more opportunities develop for regional students and junior doctors from this.”

The conference also provided the DRIVERS steering and scientific committees, made up of a group of Bendigo-based junior doctors, the opportunity to extend their leadership skills beyond a clinical setting.

“Being part of the steering committee was an opportunity for learning logistical planning in an environment of change, how to delegate, and how to effectively adapt when needed. This allowed me to consolidate the leadership skills I learned from the Emerging Leaders’ Course I attended earlier this year,” reflected Steering Committee Co-Chair Dr Jessica Paynter.

DRIVERS 2021 award winners

A number of awards were given out to presenters at the gala dinner celebration that followed the conference, hosted by Bendigo fine dining restaurant Ms Batterhams. The awards were judged by local senior medical professionals from a range of backgrounds, who acknowledged the excellence on display at the conference.

The winners in each category were:

  • Best overall scientific presentation: Dr Marc Chia for ‘Emergency surgical transfers from a rural hospital: An analysis of the case-mix over three years.’
  • Best quality improvement project: Dr Laura Panozzo for ‘Improving the quality of presentations at multidisciplinary team meetings in regional cancer care.’
  • Best case study presentation: Dr Angela Holmes for ‘Intraoperative indocyanine green fluorescence navigation in a robot-assisted partial nephrectomy for a large renal cell carcinoma in a horseshoe kidney.’
  • Best scientific presentation (hospital medicine): Dr Ruby Marslen for ‘Real-world outcomes of immunotherapy in geriatric oncology patients with metastatic lung cancer: A regional single centre retrospective analysis.’
  • Best scientific presentation (community practice and medical education): Yacoub Jayoghli for ‘To Jab or Not To Jab? Addressing COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in Rural and Regional Setting’
  • Most visionary presentation: Dr Madeleine Leung for ‘Supratentorial problems? Piloting a Consultation and Liaison psychiatric service in regional Victoria.’
  • Best reflective presentation: Dr James Ooi for ‘Sports & Exercise Medicine and its importance to regional healthcare.’
  • Regional Training Hub Director’s Award: Pia Herrera for ‘Improving accessibility of medical terminations of pregnancy through telehealth for rural and regional women in Australia.’
  • Special commendation: Dr Natasha Pritchard for ‘Sex-specific pregnancy growth standards improve the correlation between small babies and stillbirth: A statewide population study.’
  • Best questions: Dr Aria Nasteka

Based on this year’s success, Monash Rural Health hopes to make DRIVERS an annual event. This will provide more professional opportunities for rural and regionally based medical students and junior doctors, and complement the ongoing activities of Monash’s two regional training hubs and the Southern Regional Training Hub Alliance.


Monash Rural Health Regional Training Hubs

The Monash Rural Health Regional Training Hubs facilitate speciality training and career development opportunities for junior doctors, to help them live, work and train rurally.  The Monash Regional Training Hubs are supported by the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training Program of the Department of Health.