New wave of GP-researchers set to tackle vital questions

Doug Hendrie

20/01/2021 2:53:44 PM

 From depression to family violence to COVID-19 – these GPs in training are ready to research for the profession.

GPs and researchers
The 2021 Academic Post cohort is set to launch.

What has the impact of COVID-19 been on GPs?
What does high quality paediatric care look like in general practice?
How do GPs manage depression occurring after a heart disease diagnosis?
Does training help GPs pivot to responding to perpetrators of family violence rather than those experiencing it?
Are GPs embedding social prescribing into their practice?
Why do rural Australian women have worse survival rates for breast cancer and what can be done?
What are the challenges in boosting advanced care planning among Western Sydney’s Vietnamese-speaking population?
These are just some of the research questions set to be explored by 21 GPs in training undertaking the RACGP’s 2021 Academic Post.
Beginning next month, the 12-month training term is offered to successful Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) applicants on a 50–50 split with clinical work. Participants complete a research project, supported by a university.
One of the successful applicants, NSW South Coast GP Dr Darran Foo, will research rurality and breast cancer pathways.
‘Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women in Australia and recent studies have shown women living in rural areas have worse survival rates for breast cancer, compared to those in urban areas,’ he said.
‘The reason for this is still unclear, and there have been very limited studies, if any, examining the primary care aspect of the breast cancer journey in rural Australia.
‘If we can find out what’s happening at the primary care level we can make a real difference. We know GPs play a vital role in early diagnosis as they are often the first port of call for patients with new symptoms, especially in rural and regional areas.’
Dr Foo said he is looking forward to gaining experience in research and teaching in an academic environment, and strongly encourages others to apply for the program.
‘I would definitely encourage anyone thinking of applying for Academic Post program to go for it,’ he said.
‘The everyday practice of GPs is based on evidence, and more researchers are needed in the primary care domain to contribute to an evidence base that is geared towards general practice.’
RACGP Censor-in-Chief Dr Tess Van Duuren congratulated the 2021 Academic Post program recipients.
‘It’s great to see the scope of research in the 2021 program, and I commend these registrars for taking up this opportunity to build their academic and research skills,’ she said.
‘General practice research underpins clinical practice and is the foundation of the quality, innovative, efficient and effective general practice required to deliver positive patient outcomes. Registrars who undertake the Academic Post often say that this work enhances their own clinical practice.
‘However, general practice research is horribly underfunded, and accounts for a very small fraction of all medical research. Less than 1% of the Medical Research Future Fund’s 10-year Investment Plan has been allocated to primary care research.
‘We really need more funding for general practice research, and more GPs and academics undertaking research in this area, which is so essential for the health of our nation.’
Dr Van Duuren said the lack of research funding is particularly acute in regional, rural and remote Australia, and noted that opportunities for clinician-researchers often led to research on local health issues, as well as aiding attraction and retention of GPs.
Shortages of primary care research funding is a perennial issue for clinician-researchers.
In 2018, GP researcher Dr Liz Sturgiss noted in newsGP that without strong general practice research, GPs have no basis for contributing to practice guidelines.
‘We cannot talk to policy makers about the strength of general practice,’ she said. ‘And we cannot continuously improve practice for the benefit of our patients.’
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