Proud, I replied. And a little weary.
I'm not surprised, she said. Because it feels like you have been everywhere. It feels like have been listening to us, that you see what we do, and that you have been out there sticking up for us.
This was wonderful to hear. Because I really hope so. It certainly does feel like – to quote the song – I’ve been everywhere, man. Even when I didn’t leave my kitchen table. Thanks to Zoom and Teams, in just one day, I can be in every ACEM jurisdiction.
This is my last blog as President of ACEM. It lands during a period of unbearably heavy global news, when many of us are grasping at whatever light and strength we can find. So, for this last blog, I am not going to offer more entreaties, or urge action, or talk about the gaping cracks in the health system. Instead, I am going to reflect on some of the simple joys I have found as College President. It is impossible to remember, let alone mention, all the highlights – and lowlights – of the last two years. Like a list of thank-yous in a speech, I am sure to leave some important ones out. Here, in no particular order, are thirty moments that have stuck with me from my time as President.
- That time Laura Tingle interviewed me for ABC’s 7.30 program. I plan to keep the text message she sent me after on my phone forever. I bought myself a Laura Tingle tea towel to remember how it feels.
- The parliamentary inquiry into the impact of ambulance ramping and access block on the operation of hospital emergency departments in New South Wales. What a privilege to be the first witness, and to walk politicians through our experiences of caring for patients in overcrowded, access-blocked EDs.
- Meeting ministers and staffers at parliament houses and virtually, and meeting health department staff and hospital executives across ACEM's jurisdictions.
- Behind the scenes with Gladys Berejiklian and Dr Kerry Chant at the NSW Health COVID-19 pressers.
- Lying on the grass at the Balit Narrun/Share the Spirit Festival in Naarm Melbourne on January 26th with Indigenous colleagues and friends, and my daughter.
- Dancing with FACEMs and trainees on the GLADD float at the Sydney Pride Parade until my legs turned to jelly. I still have glitter all over my sneakers.
- Transport adventures. Like that time John Bonning, Stephen Gourley and I caught the train together to the ACEM Awards Ceremony. Or when Peter Allely and I caught the wrong bus and took an unplanned tour through the suburbs of Perth. All the times road-tripping with College staff, singing Disney tunes on the way to Geelong, or realising that even a jumbo bag of Fru-Chocs doesn’t make getting lost and driving past the Adelaide sewage works, twice, any fun.
- Meeting other medical leaders – at the Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges in Australia, the Council of Medical Colleges in Aotearoa, and the EM presidents from all over the world at ICEM in Amsterdam.
- Singing waiata with Medical Council of New Zealand staff at Te Papa. And online with Kiwi muso friends. Aroha.
- When, after years of lockdown, we finally came together to dance up a storm at the gala dinner in Ōtautahi Christchurch.
- Photos with babies at College ceremonies – I know how hard the new FACEM has worked to get there, and what they have sacrificed, and totally love sharing the moment with their beautiful little people.
- That time College staff did my make-up in a hotel room and we got the giggles because I kept flinching and messing up my mascara.
- The gang of ACEM kids enjoying some retro-style fun on the jumping pillow at the Victorian Faculty conference.
- That time I lost the ACEM President medal in the back of a hire car. While I was wildly panicking, College staff argued with the rental place then ran into a carwash to get it back.
- When the ED Musos performed live on stage at ICEM in Melbourne, and I got caught up in the moment, then had to race across the stage to play my keyboard part.
- Every single New Fellows workshop. Meeting new FACEMs and hearing how we can help and support them is so powerful.
- My recurring guest speaker spot on the SUPER course, talking about how to combine parenting with clinical leadership, but never being quite sure that I have even got it worked out for myself.
- Long late night or early morning phone calls with the past and future Presidents, Faculty Chairs, and other ACEM office bearers, navigating the six time-zones of the College. I miss late-night chats with Joe Epstein, talking about literature, philosophy and politics.
- That time I did a live cross with Channel 7’s Sunrise – in the torrential rain, under a tarp in the backyard, with water running down my back and into my shoes.
- Every time bad reception forced me to huddle in the ambulance bay at work, to talk on the phone with members or ACEM staff, while trying not to annoy my real-life colleagues too much.
- The ACEM-Swinburne leadership series – Zoom sessions with other clinical leaders felt like therapy during the height of the pandemic, and led to many, many debriefing calls and lasting friendships.
- Bush walking in Lane Cove National Park with FACEMs and trainees, mostly in the guise of providing advice and support to them, but always getting back way more than I handed out.
- Brekkie at Operator 25 in Melbourne with FACEMs, trainees and College staff and, when I was really lucky, with my kids.
- That time when I hid out in the bathroom at Sydney Airport to avoid seeing myself on the TV news, then a journalist called – so I did a radio interview with toilets flushing beside me.
- Warm welcomes in Aotearoa – shopping for hats and handmade jewellery, all those baked treats, and the strong sense of sisterhood with Kiwi EM leaders.
- All the art, music and beauty you have shared with me – thank you for texting me photos, drawings, paintings and songs. I love them, please keep them coming.
- Books and words. Thank you, so many of you have sent books, articles, stories and poetry to me, and I hope to have time to read them properly now. A special shout out to Boney, who has sent me quotes and handwritten notes which I have blu-tacked to the wall above my desk.
- Twitter and Facebook – conversations, random ideas, friendly fire, ED Haiku, medical mums, the McJournal Club, encouragement, uncomfortable truths, inspiration, connection, and more.
- Playing the piano at the Newcastle Winter Symposium – processing my emotions during busy and tricky times.
- The Building Our Futures Summit. What a day.
There have been incalculable, powerful, fun and joyful moments. But none so important as spending time with all of you – in ED tearooms, tute rooms and offices, at staff stations and in resus bays, in the meeting rooms at the College’s premises, or over the phone.
I have felt friendship, connection and love, forged in the fires of pandemic pressures, and strengthened through our shared work to progress our wonderful specialty. It has been an utter privilege to bear witness to the work you do, to speak for you and champion our profession, and to advocate for the communities we serve. Thank you.
Now it's time to hand you over, to the safe and capable hands of our next ACEM President, Dr Stephen Gourley.
As always, whatever the next month – or year – brings, we will get through it like we always do. Together.