Legacy of late RACGP President lives on

Matt Woodley

27/07/2021 5:13:27 PM

One year after the passing of Dr Harry Nespolon, the first recipient of an RACGP Foundation grant named in his honour has been announced.

Dr Harry Nespolon
Dr Nespolon worked tirelessly to advance the profession and support his fellow GPs.

Former RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon, who died on 27 July 2020 following a nine-month battle with pancreatic cancer, continued working right up until his death as he fought for patients and GPs alike.
And while a lot has happened in the 12 months since his death, the impacts of Dr Nespolon’s work and achievements continue to echo throughout the profession.
‘Harry was taken too soon, but his legacy will live on for many years to come,’ RACGP President Dr Karen Price told newsGP on the one-year anniversary of Dr Nespolon’s death. 
‘I was always struck by the commitment he had for general practice, which was only eclipsed by the other great loves of his life – his wife and two daughters – whom he always spoke to me about.  
‘The care he had for the wellbeing of his colleagues and patients was beyond question. The future of general practice was always a driving force for him and people all around Australia are still benefiting from the tireless advocacy work he conducted on their behalf.
‘His presence is greatly missed by many of us within the general practice community, and our thoughts go out to his family at what must be a difficult time.’
From helping to institute broad telehealth access in primary care to helping end the Medicare freeze, the ‘great defender of general practice’ worked tirelessly to advance the profession and support his fellow GPs.
But one of the issues closest Dr Nespolon’s heart was the health and wellbeing of his fellow GPs.
As such, the inaugural winner of the RACGP Foundation Dr Harry Nespolon Grant, Associate Professor Jill Benson, told newsGP it is a ‘great honour’ to have the opportunity to continue this legacy via the research she will undertake over the next 12 months.
‘I always say that some people never die – their spirit lives on in in other ways. And I think that’s what this feels like,’ she said
‘Harry’s spirit is going to live on in this grant, and the meaning that he brought to the way he ran his life can be continued.’
Valued at up to $60,000, the Dr Harry Nespolon Grant is designed to support research into the wellbeing of GPs and/or GPs in training, including factors that support wellbeing, self-care and peer support.
Associate Professor Benson’s research will focus on how career diversity within general practice can benefit GPs and help avoid burnout.
‘One of the absolute beauties of general practice is the diversity,’ she said.
‘If we can really [take advantage] of that diversity, we can have a bigger sense of meaning in our own lives, as well as an ability to help a wider range of people.
Associate Professor Benson says the aim of the research is to investigate the diversity of careers that are available to GPs and how much time they’re dedicating to those careers, and then compare that with burnout levels and social and emotional wellbeing levels.
‘There’s research that says that if you do more than 20% of your work in something that gives you a deep sense of meaning, you’re likely to stay healthier and you’re likely to have a more sustainable career,’ she said.
‘We know from other research that GPs who do a diverse range of occupations within the spectrum of general practice have more sustainable careers in those more challenging areas like working with vulnerable people.’
Given the nature of general practice is varied and the type of work it can entail ranges from clinical to research to networking, and everything in between, Associate Professor Benson said one of the aims of the research is to ‘fill in some of the middle of the spectrum’ and gain a greater understanding of what work–life balance means within a GP context.
The end goal will be providing insight into the relationship between career diversity and wellbeing in order to improve job satisfaction and ensure general practice remains a desirable career for the next generation of medical graduates.
‘We all want meaning in our life,’ she said. ‘And I think one of the absolute joys of general practice is that you can find that meaning in so many different ways.’
This grant is made available through the generosity of Medibank Better Health Foundation, the RACGP, and kind donations made by Sonic Healthcare, RACGP members and family, friends, colleagues and patients of Dr Harry Nespolon. If you wish to make a donation, it would be gratefully accepted via mycause.

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Dr Kerry Lyn Hancock   28/07/2021 9:14:17 AM

Congratulations Jill Benson! It "warms the cockles of my heart" that you are the first and very worthy recipient of this wonderful research grant in honour of our friend and colleague Harry.

Dr Charmaine Jane Sargent   28/07/2021 9:54:48 AM

Congratulations Dr Jill Benson. I can only imagine Harry would be delighted that his grant be put to such a worthy cause.