In collating information about the history of the College, Toni has used a combination of archived material such as the College Council Minutes and Annual Reports, ACEM news in early editions of Emergency Medicine, various government reports and correspondence from the College archives. These sources are augmented with the published and unpublished reflections and comments from Fellows and recent personal interviews.
So far, Toni has interviewed a mix of Foundation Fellows and key contributors to ACEM’s history. These  include the ACEM’s Foundation President, Dr Tom Hamilton, former presidents Dr Joseph Epstein, Dr Richard Ashby, Dr Andrew Singer, Professor Peter Cameron, Professor Chris Baggoley and Dr Ian Knox, and other Foundation Fellows such as Dr Ed Brentnall, Dr Angela Pitchford from New Zealand and Professor Gerry Fitzgerald.

Toni has also spoken with Dr Geoff Hughes, current editor of Emergency Medicine Australasia, and the inaugural College Chief Executive Officer and long term College employee Jenny Freeman. Going forward Toni intends to interview later ACEM Presidents and CEOs.

In writing the history Toni is working with the ACEM History Project Steering Committee (HPSC) – formed in May 2017 – to oversee celebrations for this significant College’s anniversary. Celebrations will culminate at this year’s ASM in Perth in November.
Toni, whose previous work includes writing a history of the Tasmanian Medical Council, says the project is “enjoyable and interesting”. She is impressed by the “conviction, commitment, courage and hard work” of the early Fellows.

Toni says, “There were quite a few challenges in the early days – establishing a training program, setting up the College infrastructure and importantly getting specialist recognition – all were overcome in a relatively short space of time. The enthusiasm was such that setbacks were always regarded as minor and temporary.”

Chapters in the life of the College

The College history, which will be launched at the ASM, has a chronological structure and will initially summarise the developments in the emerging field of emergency medicine both internationally and in Australia and New Zealand in the 1960s and 70s. This will be followed by looking at the foundation of the College (1978-83), establishing the College (1983-97), expansion, consolidation and growth (1997-2007), and finally the modern era (2007-17).

The First Fellowship Examinations, academic appointments in Emergency Medicine in Australia and New Zealand, regional faculties being set up, the launch of the journals Emergency Medicine and Emergency Medicine Australasia, the establishment of the ACEM Foundation, and 2014’s Governance Restructure are just some of the major developments that will be covered in the book.

Toni says the history’s narrative “will trace the development of ACEM from what Dr Hamilton describes as an ‘upstart College’ to its current position as the peak body advocating for Emergency Medicine within organised medicine in Australia and New Zealand”.

“While there has been political, societal and cultural milestones that have occurred that helped form, grow and consolidate the College, one of the takeaways has been the acknowledgement that the right people were always in the right place at the right time,” she said.

“There is a clear sense of the hard work and dedication of people in the formation of the College and the development of the specialty of Emergency Medicine.”

Toni hopes that the history will be of interest to both old and new Fellows – “that it will acknowledge the achievements of earlier Fellows and help new Fellows coming through the College to understand where the College has come from, and perhaps encourage them to make a commitment and contribute to the College’s future.”

Combining facts and stories

Toni says while ensuring the College history is told accurately, she hopes to present the history of the College in the most interesting and approachable way possible.

She and the members of the HPSC hope that the inclusion of personal anecdotes will give the history a human and personal face.

“The Foundation Fellows remember the early days with excitement and enthusiasm and hopefully that will be captured that in the book,” she says.

Could it happen today?

Based on her research so far, Toni doubts history would repeat itself if such a task to establish a college was undertaken today.

“The landscape has changed completely – all aspects of our society are more heavily regulated,” she says. “It was right for the time, and the time in Australia and New Zealand was one of bravery and the countries were doing new things, and they [the Foundation Fellows] epitomised this.

“It was obvious it needed to happen. Dr Hamilton talks about it being inevitable, and it actually was, because of the way people were using hospitals, and major changes in the political environment such as Medicare.”

Get involved

To help ACEM celebrate, if you have any photos, or documents that you think may be of interest, we would love to hear from you.

It could be sending through a picture from when you were just starting out in the emergency department, or one that holds special significance on your Emergency Medicine journey. As we gather the cherished memories, we will share a section of them with your fellow emergency physicians throughout the year on our various communication channels.

Send materials to [email protected]. Please include as much information as possible such as time, dates, names, location and a brief description.

Watch ACEM President Dr Simon Judkins outline what to expect as the College marks this milestone.
Keep an eye out for updates in College communications including the weekly Bulletin and posts on social media.