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02 May 2018
Opinion Piece

An outstanding cancer workforce

  • Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute
  • Western Health
  • Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
  • Royal Children's Hospital
  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre
  • Austin Health
  • Department of Health and Human Services

May 2018

I was reminded of the extraordinary workforce that exists across the alliance when visiting our partner organisations to share the VCCC Strategic Research Plan (SRP) this month.  Thank you to all at Austin Health and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, Western Health Sunshine and Footscray sites, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and those who joined us from across the Parkville precinct at the VCCC to learn about the SRP and how it is being implemented. I'd also like to acknowledge the support of the team from the Victorian Cancer Agency of DHHS who attended all the presentations.

The questions and discussions at the events and the networking afterwards indicated a high level of interest and engagement and it was great to hear new and different perspectives from across the alliance. We now have active steering committees for most of our SRP programs so I’d also like to thank all those who have elected to prioritise this collaborative effort by taking on a leadership or advisory role alongside your existing responsibilities.

This sense of group effort and shared goals was also on show at the very successful VCCC Precision Prevention and Tailored Screening Symposium on 26 April.  More than 70 delegates attended and several commented on the value of the synergy and that the level of consultation and sharing had become the ‘new normal’ for the VCCC alliance – a vital factor in accelerating opportunities in cancer control.

Last week I also had the pleasure of recognising emerging research talent.  It was fantastic to see the first Steer North VCCC PhD Research Scholarship awarded to Andrew Freeman from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.  I’m thrilled that this $100,000 scholarship is supporting a dedicated and talented young Australian cancer researcher who shares the passion and energy of the donors who made it possible.

This week I ask you to think about the talent in your own teams. Applications for the $10,000 Picchi Awards for Excellence in Cancer Research close this Friday 4 May. The calibre of the previous Picchi Award winners attests to the prestige and significance of these prizes which recognise and support high-performing students. Please encourage a talented student you know to apply.

We are looking forward to welcoming Professor Maarten J. IJzerman as he officially takes up the position of VCCC Chair of Cancer Health Services Research next week.  Established by the University of Melbourne and Western Health, as part of their contribution to the VCCC Leaders in Cancer Strategy, Maarten’s appointment is exciting and timely, supporting Victoria’s capacity to apply scientific research direct to the delivery of healthcare.

I was thrilled to see the State Government investment in electronic health records for three VCCC members announced in the budget this week. Joining Austin Health, the Royal Children’s Hospital and Western Health, collectively the VCCC partners will have the opportunity to lead the digital health revolution in research-led patient care.  Together with the commencement of Professor Ijzerman and other strategic initiatives in clinical informatics and data science across the VCCC partners, we can look forward to Victorian cancer patients benefitting from a game changer in health care.

Due to growth in both the scale and complexity of the work of the VCCC we are also on the lookout for some new talent to join our team. A search is underway to fill the newly created leadership role of Associate Director. This will be a key role in the strategic leadership and development of the organisation, with a focus on both operational program quality and delivery and working toward securing future funding to ensure the sustainability of the VCCC.

Finally, as we accelerate our efforts to expand cancer clinical trials, I was struck by a significant shift in focus at the recent American Association for Cancer Research conference. This meeting has a long history in supporting fundamental discovery research but on this occasion 170 clinical trials were presented including practice-changing trials in lung cancer and melanoma involving immunotherapies.  It seems we are on the cusp of a major acceleration in new treatments.

Grant McArthur
Executive Director