Extended skills recognition ‘good for the profession’

Michelle Wisbey

18/12/2023 4:22:04 PM

The first round of GPs to apply for the new program have now received their formal recognition and are encouraging colleagues to sign up.

Dr Ali Zahedi and Dr Raghuraj Vasanthan.
Dr Ali Zahedi and Dr Raghuraj Vasanthan were the first two recipients of the Recognition of Extended Skills program. (Images: Supplied)

Since its official launch at WONCA earlier this year, GPs are singing the praises of the new Recognition of Extended Skills (RES) program, saying it will better allow patients to seek out their expertise.
The first GPs to apply for the initiative have now received their recognition, which allows them to display an RACGP Extended Skills sign on their website to promote their skills and training.
The RES is open to any RACGP with at least five years of experience in a selected specific interest area, with the initial trial including dermatology, integrative medicine, psychological medicine, addiction medicine, and developmental disability. 
Sydney GP Dr Ali Zahedi was the first recipient to receive the recognition, specialising in dermatology after completing several skin-related training courses covering medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology.
‘I have always had a keen interest in arts, and I find dermatology a very visual and hands-on branch of medicine,’ he told newsGP.
‘Dermatology gives me an opportunity to work on a canvas which directly affects physical and emotional wellbeing of people, for example when I treat a teenager’s acne lesions.
‘Being familiar with all physical, emotional, and social aspects of my patients’ health helps me manage their skin conditions with a more holistic approach.’
Dr Zahedi said after years of hard work and dedication, the RES program is formal recognition of his expertise.
‘Getting accepted into the program offers me an opportunity to be recognised for the extra training and years of practical experience in treating skin conditions,’ he said.
‘I have an established long-term relationship with my patients for over 15 years.
‘It’s reassuring for them to know they have the option of getting some of their dermatology concerns managed by their local GP.’
The recognition program was labelled a ‘gamechanger’ upon its launch, designed to help GPs be better empowered to work to the top of their scope.
Dr Raghuraj Vasanthan was the second successful application and said the program also offered the opportunity to connect with other GPs who similar special interests.
But a specialisation in dermatology was not always his plan.
‘It was almost accidental,’ Dr Vasanthan told newsGP. ‘I found as a registrar that dermatology was tough, so I enrolled in a diploma from the Australian Institute of Dermatology and that was very interesting just opened up my eyes.
‘What started as a weakness slowly developed into a strength because I just saw more and more of it.
‘Then I had to upskill again, so I went into the Master of Medicine from University of Queensland and that gave me five more years of much deeper exposure to skin cancer.’
Now he has received his RES, Dr Vasanthan will receive marketing materials, including an email signature banner, images for use in social media, and images for websites, to help promote his expertise.
He hopes his RES approval will help patients seek him out for his added expertise in dermatology.
‘Anything I can do to help, because certain things we can do in general practice and I think it will help patients not have to wait for a dermatologist for months,’ Dr Vasanthan said.
‘There’s a lot to be gained from it and not much to lose – if your peers can look at your application and say you’ve done something to help your patients, and further yourself, and being able to meet likeminded people, I think it’s good for the profession.
‘If we can work as GPs to help the patients to the best of our scope, I think it’s only good for society.’
Applications for the program remain open on the RACGP website, and each application will be assessed by a panel of expert GPs to ensure high standards of recognition.
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