Second year medical student wins overall Quality in Healthcare ACT Award

7 December 2018

On Wednesday, the Quality in Healthcare ACT Awards were held at the National Art Gallery. Deputy Dean, Zsuzsoka Kecskes was MC for the occasion and was joined by such notable speakers as Dion Devow, 2018 ACT Australian of the Year and ACT Minister for Health and Well-being, Meegan Fitzharris MLA. 

Mr Dion Devow, ACT Australian of the Year, 2018 and Deputy Dean, Zsuzsoka Kecskes

It was a night to remember for one medical student, Josh Ahearn, who walked away with both the student and overall prize for his research project: Impact of inhaled Nitric Oxide Stewardship program in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

Josh, a second year medical student, joined the Army through ADFA and following graduation from the Royal Military Duntroon served as an Officer with the Royal Australian Engineers. He became determined to become a GP during his service and says "I knew that becoming a GP would enable me to continue to help people in a completely different way to my previous career."

On his return from deployment to Iraq at the end of 2016, he commenced his studies at the ANU Medical School in 2017.

In early 2017, whilst he was perusing avenues for the completion of his research project, he met with Dr Chaudhari at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Canberra Hospital. They discussed the importance of inhaled Nitric Oxide (iNO) in the treatment of neonates with Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn. He realised that across similar units globally the delivery of the treatment is often noncompliant to the prescribed protocol, exposing the patient to potentially adverse effects whilst also increasing expenditure through unnecessarily prolonged treatment.

Josh Ahearn with his supervisor, Dr Tejasvi Chaudhari 

Over the following year, he undertook the collection of data from observation reports and dedicated forms that detailed the patients administration of inhaled Nitric Oxide in their treatment, determining when the iNO treatment should have been and was commenced, when it was proven to be working and the timeframe over which they weaned the patient off iNO.

He ascertained that stewardship programs provide an effective tool to monitor the compliance to protocols and determine why deviations to the prescribed method occur. This project showed that compliance to the protocol significantly reduces the unnecessary delivery of iNO, reducing the risk of complications, improving the quality of patient care and also decreasing unnecessary costs.

Josh acknowledges that "it was a privilege to be recognised for the work, but to me the important aspect is it shows the contribution that all students can make within the healthcare system even so early in their careers. Improving the quality of care that the patients receive is so important, especially when coupled with increased efficiencies."