The neonatal intensive care ward at the Canberra Hospital has always been a place of high technology. Beeping machines and screens monitor vital signs, advising parents and medical staff how these tiny babies are going. Associate Professor Zsuzsoka Kecskes has added a webcam to the mix.
"The parents think it's fabulous," Kecskes says of the NICUCAM program, where webcams are placed above the cribs so parents can monitor their baby from home. The clinical neonatologist and ANU Medical School Associate Professor developed NICUCAM after she heard of a similar project in Berlin.
"I thought it was a great idea. It was innovative, easy to do, technologically modern, and such a benefit to the families," she says.
Funded by ACT Health Directorate, the 10 cameras went live in 2010 making this free, web-based service the first of its kind in Australia.
"Not every parent can come every day to see their baby. Being able to see their baby reassures the parents who get to know their baby and, of course, show them off to relatives."
Associate Professor Kecskes was named 2014 ACT Australian of the Year for her work with NICUCAM and for including families in the design process of the new Centenary Hospital for Women and Children.
"It's important to include the family in projects like these. Neonatology is a young discipline, we are still learning how important families are for the health of the baby."
Kecskes fell in love with paediatrics while studying medicine in her native Germany.
She is now setting about getting the next generation of doctors ready for what can be a demanding job. "We're developing the third and fourth year Medical School theme called Professionalism and Leadership, which is about mentorship, ethics, quality, safety and integrity. To me that is what being a doctor is about," she says.
"The way students are treated in Australia is so different to how I was treated in Germany. There is a lot more interaction, smaller classes and a much more personal context. It's a big step from being a student to being a doctor. I want to give them the tools and the resilience to survive and become the kind of doctors we want them to be."
There is no doubt Kecskes will impart some of her own enthusiasm for medicine along the way.
This article appeared in the ANU Reporter magazine Autumn 2014.