Tumour Summits Steering Committee Member : An Introduction

By Stewart Harper, GRICS


I started in this role February 22 [2021]. My entire career has been in health, commencing as a podiatrist in 2002 and have come a long way since then. I graduated university not sure I’d made the right decision and so explored other opportunities within the health sphere outside of clinical practice which led me to undertaking a Master's in health administration, from that, I was awarded a internship with the Australasian College of Health Service Management. Their intern program allows senior clinicians or Master’s level graduates to leapfrog the usual ‘clinician to manager’ process and into senior health management careers.

My first intern placement was at Cobram District Health, working alongside then-CEO, Nick Bush, on a novel intern training program in the rural setting. The aim was to have three small rural hospitals align with the larger regional partners to establish and deliver a 1st year post-graduate medical intern program, it was established roughly 12 months after my placement. My second placement was at Latrobe Regional Hospital (LRH) where I was able to undertake a medical management role. I finished my intern program at the end of 2010 and was offered a special projects position at LRH, this led me to a General Manager position where I was involved in facilities management capital development for about six years. I was then General Manager of support services, doing more corporate type management, and then for the last two years I have been at Central Gippsland Health as the General Manager of Ambulatory Services, managing district nursing, palliative care, community services and allied health. And then the Program Manager at GRICS came up.

It was really that work in palliative care, or the exposure to palliative care that gave me the interest in applying for the GRICS Program Manager role. I know that cancer and palliative care don't have to go hand in hand, but there's a very important link that needs to exist between cancer and palliative care. Seeing palliative care go really well, and seeing palliative care [go not so well] from my (previous) role was what cemented it for me that I wanted to do more in that space. Not necessarily working in palliative care, as I don't think I have the mindset to do that day in and day out, but certainly want[ing] to influence it in the right direction. Once you’re on the palliative care pathway, there is a single focus for palliative care, however it may be a few years before end of life and Palliative Care has so much to offer in that time. Part of my role here at GRICS is to make sure that from a regional perspective we can do palliative care better and can inform the conversation around palliative Care and Advanced Care planning to empower patients and carers to take control of this aspect of their care pathway. I think there is a lot of good work to be done in this space.

I didn't know [Victorian Tumour Summits] exist[s]. I think I was told [the day after I started the role], ‘By the way, you're on the Victorian Tumour Summits Steering Committee.’ We're doing the planning at the moment for the [Breast Cancer 2021 Summit]. I'm very, very happy to be involved in it. [It] will obviously give GRICS the opportunity to hear what's going on at a statewide level, but then convening [our] local clinicians and listening to them as well will influence the work that we can do locally. I’m keen to listen.