Using GP feedback to better support refugee health

Morgan Liotta

8/01/2019 10:37:35 AM

An academic post and roles as a medical educator gave general practice registrar Dr Timothy Wittick the opportunity to publish his research.

Dr Timothy Wittick promotes a collaborative and caring approach to working with patients from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.
Dr Timothy Wittick promotes a collaborative and caring approach to working with patients from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.

After an 18-month university stint as a volunteer medical educator in Laos, Dr Timothy Wittick was inspired to take up a research project on refugee health via an academic post, a career move that proved worthwhile.
‘I’ve had an interest in medical education for quite some time and ended up taking time off part-way through my general practice training to volunteer in a medical education capacity with a university in Laos,’ Dr Wittick told newsGP.
‘The academic post sounded like a good opportunity to learn more about the practicalities of working in general practice academia and seemed to be a logical step after my work in Laos.’
Dr Wittick’s research project explored GPs’ perceptions of a trial version of the recently developed online refugee health resource, the Australian Refugee Health Practice Guide, which targets GPs, nurses and other primary care providers to support them working in refugee health.
The project was undertaken as a partnership between the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House) and the University of Melbourne’s Department of General Practice.
‘Our project involved gathering feedback from GPs on a trial version of the website in the latter stages of its development,’ Dr Wittick explained.
‘It was done with the intention of providing practical feedback to Foundation House on the site and to add to a relatively new and developing body of literature into the use of online resources in clinical practice.’
Dr Wittick was published an article, ‘An online resource supporting refugee healthcare in Australian general practice: An exploratory study’, in the November issue of Australian Journal of General Practice (AJGP), detailing his project. He believes GPs have a significant role to play in refugee healthcare.
‘I see our role as twofold,’ he said.
‘Firstly, taking a collaborative, sensitive and caring approach to working constructively with patients from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds within a team environment.
‘Secondly, advocating passionately for our patients and, more broadly, for this patient group.’
One objective of Dr Wittick’s study is that it will contribute to supporting GPs to become familiar with the Australian Refugee Health Practice Guide, which the surveyed GPs viewed as a ‘central repository of refugee health-specific information with useful links, helping to fill knowledge gaps for participants and affirm existing practice’.
From the feedback gathered, it is proposed to further adapt the resource to make key information more accessible and up to date in order to ensure it is critical to future uptake.
Dr Wittick plans to continue his clinical general practice, which incorporates a small role in medical student education in Melbourne, where he is currently based part-time.
‘I’m taking a step away from academia for the time being,’ he said.
‘I’m currently enjoying balancing work and family time, [but] am keen to return to clinically-based refugee health work, and am also interested in spending some time in the country, along with keeping involved in medical education.’

academic post general practice research refugee health

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