Issue 2 • 2021

Transformation embodies a new RACP Congress experience

After a tempestuous 2020, the theme of ‘Transformation: Adapting for the future’ was put into action in nearly every aspect of RACP Congress 2021.
Brisbane was the gracious host to launch the new hybrid RACP Congress. Embracing the challenges presented by the uncertainty of COVID-19 whilst learning from the success of the 2020 online approach.
Songwoman Maroochy led the Brisbane Welcome to Country and opened the first major face-to-face event held by the College since lockdown. RACP College President, Professor John Wilson AM drew inspiration from Bob Dylan as he reflected on the past year and the way the College had responded to the pandemic. He then proceeded to speak candidly about the progress the College was making towards long-term goals relating to professionalism, equity and areas in which the College could do better.
Adelaide was the next city to host a face-to-face event and, once again, the opportunity for a face-to-face gathering was indeed welcome. Sessions were interspersed with opportunities for people to catch up, attend orations and prizes were awarded. The notion of transformation was clearly present as the future direction of specialties was explored.
A last-minute lockdown in Perth saw a smooth transition to a purely online event, with people tuning in from around the globe to enjoy some very engaging sessions.
The six-city event then moved to Melbourne, which, after having experienced a gruelling battle with COVID-19, was out in force to enjoy some time with colleagues in a more traditional setting. Equity and Indigenous engagement were discussed quite frankly, and challenges to reaching College goals were addressed and strategies for improvement presented.
The last of the Australian leg took place in Sydney with a last-minute COVID-19 mask mandate proving no barrier to a bustling event. The theme of transformation was explored from a technical angle, with a fascinating session on artificial intelligence, as well as the importance of Indigenous practitioners to the health outcomes for Indigenous people.
Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington played host to the final in-person event, with the Mihi Whakatau opening the occasion, which proved to be the largest face-to-face session for specialists in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Spread over 19 days, RACP Congress 2021 featured over 80 sessions, ranging from keynote presentations and orations to clinical updates and award presentations. All sessions were well attended, with the online platform allowing a broad range of questions from attendees, both in person and virtually.
The program provided many opportunities to explore the theme of transformation and the ways that the College can itself transform to adapt to the future. The growing number of female Fellows was highlighted; however, there was acknowledgement that there was still a way to go in finding a more even gender balance for both the membership as well as College committees.
The lack of Indigenous specialists was also explored, not only as an important means of improving diversity within the College, but also in improving health outcomes for Indigenous patients, as well as for the broader community.
Dr Michael Ryan spoke of how, despite all the technology, it is still astute physicians who are the first to recognise the initial signs of a pandemic. He touched on the variants and how the impact of them is obscuring a timeline for the end of the current pandemic whilst Professor Michael Baker spoke on the elimination strategy.
The direction of the College, as a whole, was discussed in the session ‘Where does RACP need to be in 2040?’ Burnout, equity priorities and climate change were a part of the discussion as well the need to be more flexible and mobile.
The impacts of climate change in the Pacific were also explored as this will no doubt have a strong influence on how the College continues to evolve and transform to meet the future health outcomes of the broader community.
The final live webinars took place on 20 May, bringing the entire event to a close.

RACP Congress 2021 showed that, far from being a simple theme, ‘Transformation: adapting for the future’ is very much an ethos that will help the College continue to serve the health of our people.
© 2021 The Royal Australasian College of Physicians
“It’s wonderful to be here with real people”
Professor Michael Baker