Making our mark despite widespread disruption
This week, we hosted two gatherings that gave a real sense of the progress we are making on the strategic vision for this world-class cancer alliance.
The Annual General Meeting held this morning was a great chance to take stock of what has been achieved in a challenging but exciting year for us. And earlier this week, the Distributed Leadership Summit was a rare chance to get a helicopter view of how our collective impact model works in practice. I regularly endorse this unique leadership model as the key to getting things done in the alliance. It is a view that is reinforced whenever we get together.
In addition to ‘day jobs’ in member institutions, our leadership group is supported by VCCC Alliance program managers to address opportunities for improvement and innovation in research and education that will have clinical benefit. The leaders have extensive networks, here and overseas. This global perspective, collective knowledge, and the ability to connect and engage in mutually reinforcing activities are fundamental to change and improvements in our programs of work across all major cancers, cancer nursing, primary care, health services research and palliative care.
Trying something new
I am always excited to listen to the ideas shared among the group which, coupled with initiatives outlined in our Strategic Program Plan have capacity to improve the lives of people affected by cancer.
Fundamentally changing practice is complex, so our leadership group is sharing the load on many fronts from driving policy to creating pathways for novel diagnostics and therapies. Alliance-wide clinical trials will have impacts on poorer outcome cancers. Educational initiatives and research symposia will train our future workforce. We are seeing a steady progression in the collection of in-depth data in registries and efficacy of optimal care pathways. This improvement in cancer datasets is fundamental to achieving the vision of the VCCC Alliance. Despite the disruption of the pandemic, this important work is going on virtually unabated.
New Research and Education (R&E Lead) role in Aboriginal Health
But there is more to do. We are currently seeking expressions of interest for the newly created role of Research and Education (R&E Lead), Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health. We have great hopes for addressing the inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across our state and with our collaborators nationally.
It is a good time to get this work underway. In May this year, a National Health and Medical Research Council-funded national network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health researchers was established. Called the National First Nations Research Network the group is made up of a team of 91 investigators, led by four First Nations leaders, and represents the largest cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers ever assembled.
Opportunities will no doubt come from this new network and we are keen to explore collaborations in Victoria, regionally and Australia-wide.
Annual Report 2020-21
There is much to celebrate in this year’s annual report tabled this week at our AGM. Our value as a collective impact organisation is clear. At the intersection of our past and current strategic plans, we can take great pride in so many achievements. Certainly, none of these outcomes would have been possible without the efforts of so many from within the alliance and beyond it.
We recognise however that the workforce all around us continues to battle against the odds. The conditions for the cancer nursing workforce are not sustainable and the Victorian COVID-19 Cancer Taskforce has recently advocated for short and medium-term interventions to mitigate the pressures.
When I think about the challenges for our workforce, it remains critical for us all to support each other at this difficult time as so well embodied in the concepts behind today’s RU OK Day.
Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre turns five
On a celebratory note, this week marks the five-year anniversary of the Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre. The centre is a VCCC Alliance regional affiliate and has become a hub for the development of clinical trials innovations, including teletrials, ensuring an increase in the number of patients with cancer living in a regional area who can receive clinical trial treatment closer to home. We are delighted for their milestone and congratulate the exceptional staff who are doing so much for people affected by cancer in the region while also navigating the challenges of the state border and COVID-19.
Prof Grant McArthur