Preparing for a crisis is a bit like planning for combat. You need to consider every possible scenario, plan for the worst and hope for the best.
“What we were hearing on the ground about the pandemic in early March, from countries such as Italy and the UK, was not good. But we had access to experts in infectious diseases – both internally and internationally, and we had time to prepare.” said Acting Director Zsuzsoka Kecskes.
Director, Imogen Mitchell (who was seconded to Canberra Hospital at the end of March to lead the front-line response) outlined a framework to create a crisis plan. Together with Professor Zsuzsoka Kecskes (who stepped into the role of Director), they bunkered down to come up with the Medical School business continuity plan. And, in consultation with Katrina Chapple (School Manager) and Pru Rolff (Project Coordinator) the plan was refined.
When they emerged, “Operation Graduate” was borne and a management team to lead the execution and report back had been established.
There were seven goals identified as being crucial to the continuity of the Medical School during the pandemic.
First and foremost, ensuring the safety, health and wellbeing of students and staff. “Our staff and students are the heartbeat of the Medical School. Our priority is always to care for and support each other. Student representatives were included in the Operation Graduate management team to ensure their voice was considered in decision making. Open and transparent communication and collaboration has been key to everyone working with a shared vision and purpose.” said Katrina Chapple.
To ensure the medical workforce in 2021 has enough well trained intern doctors, the focus has been on graduating year 4, Doctor of Medicine and Surgery students. “Of course, graduating our students has to be done in the context of maintaining the highest of standards,“ said A/Professor Malcolm Moore. “Obtaining clinical experience has been a priority. We’ve worked with our hospital and general practice partners to come up with guidelines for clinical work that keeps patients safe, maintains our students’ learning, and supports our partners.”
A process for enrolling Year 1, Doctor of Medicine and Surgery students in 2021 is also top of mind. “When the pandemic hit we assumed that the usual process of interviewing the incoming cohort face-to-face wouldn’t be possible and we were initially unclear if the GAMSAT exams would go ahead. We’ve decided to utilise the technology at our disposal to support our recruitment process this year.” said A/Professor David Kramer.
“We’ve also learned a lot about online teaching during the course of the pandemic. We’ve realised that some of the courses that we thought could only be taught face-to-face, such as anatomy, can be very effectual in the online space. It may very well change the way we teach in future. All of these learnings are helping us achieve our goal of planning for the 2021 curriculum.” said Professor Kecskes.
Managing research opportunities and projects including HDR milestones is also of great importance. “As the National University we want to contribute to the discourse and efforts around COVID19, in order to support the broader community. Through our research, expert advice and frontline response, we have been able to achieve this”, said Professor Chris Nolan.
And last but certainly not least, maintaining school operations including IT, HR, finance, facilities and governance.
It must be acknowledged that behind the scenes there are many more staff and students moving mountains to achieve these goals. Each management team member is responsible for a sub-team who are assigned tasks to achieve the plan. These sub-teams include staff and students.
“As a nation we’ve been fortunate that the worst case scenario did not come to fruition. The Medical School team have operated with military precision in their execution of the plan and I’ve had explicit trust in them, and they’ve trusted each other. I’m so proud of our team and all we’ve accomplished during Operation Graduate”, said Professor Kecskes.
Operation Graduate Management Team:
- Prof Imogen Mitchell (Director, seconded since end of March)
- Prof Zsuzsoka Kecskes (Acting Director, and Learning and Teaching)
- Prof Kirsty Douglas (Acting Deputy Director, March-end to early-June)
- Katrina Chapple (Operations and Staff Wellbeing)
- Prof Chris Nolan and Prof Kevin Saliba (Research and HDR)
- A/Prof David Kramer (Admissions and Assessments)
- A/Prof Malcolm Moore and Meg Milne (Rural Clinical School)
- Wendy Dimond (Teaching and Learning Staff)
- Dr Nicola Schembri (Student Wellbeing)
- Tim Borough (Operations – Facilities and Access)
- Vojislav Zeljkovic (IT)
- Sam Gerami and Speros Thomas (Student Representatives)
- Pru Rolff (Operation Graduate Project Coordinator)
- Cheryl Morse (Executive Support)
- Barb Corapi (Communications)
Operation Graduate is now in its recovery phase (contingency mode) and is expected to stay in that mode for a number of months.