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Occasional Address - University of Canberra - Faculty of Health - Graduation Ceremony - 30 Mar 2022

Dr. Dawda delivered the occasional address to graduates of the University of Canberra's Faculty of Health. Attached below is the transcript of his presentation.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Ngunnawal people and pay my respects to their Elders, both past and present and any First Nation’s people that are with us today.

  • Chancellor, Professor Tom Calma
  • Vice-Chancellor - Professor Paddy Nixon
  • Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health – Professor Michelle Lincoln
  • Academics from the Faculty of Health
  • UC Council members
  • UC Executive staff members
  • Families and Graduating Students

First and foremost, congratulations to each and every one of you graduating today and to your families. It is indeed a milestone to be proud off and celebrate.

My own graduation was thirty years ago, 1992 in London. I recall the day well. I felt ecstatic, celebratory and a true sense of achievement as did my family. I also felt a nervous excitement as I embarked on the next steps of the journey in my chosen career.

A cause for celebration for many reasons. For me, it was about having graduated and finished medical school against the odds. My family left Uganda as refugees in the early 1970s, after a short period in India, we arrived in the UK in 1975. As a seven-year-old in the East End of London I went to an overcrowded under-achieving school, was unable to speak English and in remedial groups for most of my lessons. A drive to learn and commitment to hard work paid off true to the words of Benjamin Franklin:

"an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."

You will have your own personal story, about the achievement, that has led to your graduation today. Reflect on it, hold it close and always remember it - it will give you the authenticity in your chosen pathway.

A nervous excitement because I’d just accomplished one milestone but the next milestones and future was unknown. However, the same formula of a drive for personal growth and commitment to hard work I knew would see me through. It did and it certainly has not disappointed. I’ve enjoyed thirty years of growth in my career; growth as a clinician, as an educator, as a researcher and as a leader. That growth has seen me work in UK and in Australia. It has offered the opportunity to contribute to and advise policy in Australia and overseas as well as provide leadership internationally in the broad and diverse areas of health care quality, patient safety, clinical leadership, value-based healthcare, digital health, aged and palliative care. An active clinical practice has kept me grounded in the reality and those experiences have been able to shape and inform the broader agenda.

What is certain is that the healthcare of tomorrow will be very different from the healthcare of today. Why is that?

Well, the nature of the problem we’re dealing with is changing. The last two years have seen the world live through a pandemic, changing the way we live and interact as a society. You of course have experienced an adaptation of education in response to COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has been responsible for over 6.1 million deaths across the world.

There is however another silent pandemicthat is one of chronic diseases – it leads to 41 million deaths every year. As we grow older as a society more and more people are living with multiple conditions. To tackle this silent pandemic our healthcare systems, and we as individuals working in health will need to change and embrace new and emerging models of care.

The next 30 years in health will I believe see an exponential change far greater than the last 30 years have seen. We will see changes in how we work, see changes in technology and in particular digital technology, and how we use it to deliver better person-centered health care. We have already started to embrace this in our clinic in Deakin and to futureproof ourselves we have tried to design a contemporary and agile medical practice with a clear and resonant purpose of making a positive difference to our patients and communities, by focusing on person-centered care. It’s about attention to teamwork and how we work as a team and not a group of independent siloed professionals. It’s about using purposeful technology.

Individualised, enabling, relationship-based and coordinated care are the definitional elements of person-centered care. Health technologies, near-point testing, genetic testing will all continue to grow and become central tenets to individualised care and precision medicine.

The complexity of care will see us working more together, more in teams and with changing scopes of work. The non-technical skills, the softer interpersonal skills, the science of teamwork and collaboration will become a hallmark of those who are most successful. In our practice in Deakin, the floor plan and workflows have been designed to encourage teamwork, all consulting rooms have a team and patient door, the team comes to the patient, there are team collaboration areas deliberately designed to encourage natural encounters throughout the day and facilitate collaboration.

Digital technologies are transforming how we work and deliver health care now. When I graduated 30 years ago desktops were only just becoming affordable and for many people using a computer meant a trip to the library and booking a computer lab. We today hold a more powerful computer in the palm of our hand in the form of a smartphone then the desktop of 30 years ago. This I believe will transform the way we work. At Next Practice, we have for example created a digital ecosystem with the aim of facilitating person-centred care, particularly enablement. Another example is the adaptation of advanced telehealth equipment to improve access to care for people with disabilities, who are housebound or in residential aged care. We can listen to heart sounds, breath sounds, check temperatures, look in ears and throats, undertake a skin examination and more – all virtually – that’s 80% of the examinations we undertake as GPs. We can use the same technologies to bring specialists and allied health into the same consultation or invite family members wherever in the world they might be. We have apps that can listen to a cough and more accurately diagnose pneumonia than emergency department physicians. Given the law of accelerating returns, tomorrow's technology will be much more powerful than todays. I was privileged, only last week, to be involved in two blue-sky thinking workshops. The first on how we can apply emerging technologies to enhance care for our ageing population. The second on how we can use technology to support our healthcare professionals to work in flexible ways. The potential is boundless, but it is imperative we prepare for a future where we can purposefully use technology to enhance experience of care, to enhance access to care, to join up and integrate care and to enhance outcomes of care.

Practicing clinical medicine, leading, reforming, and achieving success happens because of environments that are supportive. For me, that support providing mental resilience and a buffer has been my incredible wife and family; tolerating my absences from home but also celebrating achievements with me and together providing me with the balance so necessary. Find and treasure your supports to help sustain you.

As I close, I’d like to leave you with three thoughts.

  • Be proud and celebrate your success today. Reflect on your personal story to this day. It is what has got you to where you are today, and it will help you reach your aspirations for the future.
  • Embrace the changing ways of working, adapt to the technology, and seize the opportunities for growth as they arise.
  • Remember the purpose and reason you choose your profession and career. The purpose will be both your anchor and your north star – grounding you and giving you stability when you need it, but also guiding you as you grow and shape your career.

In the words of Malcolm X:

"Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today."

Today’s graduation is a recognition of your preparedness; tomorrow belongs to you! Congratulations and I truly wish you all the very best.