Issue 2 • 2022
© 2022 The Royal Australasian College of Physicians
A message from
your President
Hello, my name is Jacqueline Small, and I am President of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. I want to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which I am speaking with you today – the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.
I want to thank Professor John Wilson for steering our College safely through the tumultuous waters of the past two years. I want to thank him for his determined, decisive, and deeply compassionate leadership as President.
I have been asked recently - what kind of President will I be? The same... but different. Our times, and our College, are changing, yet we stand true to our foundations. I will continue to stand for the excellence of our Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand medical specialists and trainees.
I will support the College’s purpose to serve the health of our people – particularly the needs of people who experience disadvantage, including people with intellectual disability. I will focus on climate change and the health of our children. We all have a role to play in the reform of our health system to deliver health equity and improved health outcomes for all.
I am the same, because like our first female President, Priscilla Kincaid-Smith (1986-1988), I believe that ‘the history of our College is the history of our Fellows.' But I am also different because my experiences are unlike many who have gone before me as President.
As a woman and a clinician, I have had to juggle work and family commitments since I had my first child towards the end of my training. I have worked part-time as a developmental paediatrician. I discovered that being part of the College enabled me to not only grow professionally, but also to make a difference. That's my story. We are living through times when all our stories need to be heard as they define who we are and build our communities.
Have you heard of Helen Mayo, Kate Mackay, Marjory Little, Margaret Harper and Eva Shipton? Those five women physicians were among the first Fellows who established the College in 1938, but they were largely written out of its history – our history.
Associate Professor Catherine Storey wrote about these extraordinary women who overcame many obstacles. Yet, we have overlooked or ignored these women and most certainly have under-rated their achievements. In other words, we won’t realise the full potential of our College into the future until we understand the stories of all of us. That includes the stories of trainees and Fellows from a diversity of genders and backgrounds –especially First Nations peoples.
Oliver Sacks wrote in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: “We have, each of us, a life-story, an inner narrative – whose continuity, whose sense, is our lives.”
What's your story? Your stories are our story. That’s what I want for our College – I want us to come together by listening to, learning from each other, and together forge our future as paediatricians and physicians.
During the Presidential handover, I wasn’t alone on the stage. I was there with three women who have made their own remarkable contributions to our College. They reflected, in part, my journey through the College. They were Dr Davina Buntsma – Trainee of the year in 2021, Dr Jenny Proimos – President of Paediatrics 2008 to 2010 and Associate Professor Jill Sewell the second female President of our College from 2004 to 2006.
I encourage you, as I did our newest Fellows at the recent convocation to:
Build on our shared foundations and values – deliver health equity for our communities.
Care for yourself and those most dear to you – John Deane wrote of being aware of the inter connectivity of all living and non-living elements, being the guardian of where you live and seeing the wondrous in the common and value the commons.
Strive to make a difference – care about your patients. See the potential in our College to improve the health of communities and be part of our leadership, our community and our exciting future together.
I would like to thank my colleagues at Sydney Local Health District for supporting me through the next two years.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to be your President.
Thank you. Dr Jacqueline Small RACP President