History of the Academy

A brief history of the Academy to date

Background:

The Paediatric Division of the RACP, in 2013, established a working group to explore options to enable greater autonomy for the profession of paediatrics into the future. This working group met by teleconference on eight occasions. It has worked through, sequentially, a number of options.

First considerations:

The beginning was consideration of forming a paediatrics specialty society. In this consideration was recognition that child health policy, advocacy on behalf of children and a ‘voice’ for children would be better held within paediatrics by paediatricians. There was considerable support for the solutions that this development would bring to child health. The working group then considered that there has been, in recent times, a proliferation of paediatric specialty societies. What additional value might a new specialty society bring? It might be considered that it would be an overarching group. The working group then did a business case around this model, concluding that many paediatricians would not wish to belong to 3 groups (RACP, their own SS and a paediatrics SS), and many would not see what additional value such an addition would bring to their own practice. It was therefore considered that this initiative, although worthy conceptually, would be unlikely to succeed as a business enterprise.

Second consideration:

Paediatrics and child health loosens its ties with the RACP and forms its own College. In this model, policy on child health, advocacy on behalf of children and training, CPD and certification are all administered by the new College. Hence there would be full triangulation of policy, advocacy and training bought together in an enterprise owned and directed by paediatricians. This has the advantage of bringing full independence and autonomy to the profession. It would also align us with our key international equivalents such as the RCPCH UK. Disadvantages include the risks inherent in developing and establishing a new training and certification structure, the immense work and cost of establishing this from scratch, and the uncertainty that a dual system in Australia and New Zealand for paediatrics might arise, through the RACP or through a new College.

In order to advance this as an option for consideration, a paper on such a possibility was published in our local Journal1, including a link to an on-line survey to gain members views and perspectives on such an option. 340 paediatricians and trainees responded to this survey on options for paediatrics and child health’s future. Eighty percent of the survey respondents consider that paediatrics does need greater autonomy, greater independence and the capacity to manage its own affairs, whilst 20% consider there are risks in a separation from the RACP, with more than 80% wanting further exploration of options for greater autonomy and independence as a profession. In free text comments of this survey, respondents commented on the strength of some of the RACPs education processes and certification steps, but included concerns on the costs of yet another professional organisation, which would charge fees to its membership.

Interpretation of this consultation suggests an appetite and desire for greater autonomy, but some concerns on complete separation from the RACP. It should also be noted that the NZ paediatricians are less desirous overall of change, perhaps because they have their PSNZ which undertakes child health policy and advocacy in NZ.

Third consideration

That an Academy of Child and Adolescent Health2 be established. In this approach, there would be new language used (Academy), signifying that this is a different model and approach to postgraduate training and the profession. In an Academy model, child health policy development and advocacy on behalf of children would be within the Academy. This enables the profession to have ownership of policy matters, surely important for children, adolescents and their wellbeing. In addition, as an Academy, resources to support paediatric training would be available within the Academy. There is then the real possibility of linking child health policy with curriculum development and training, including CPD. This ensures that policy development is universalised throughout the profession and trainees. This triangulation ensures a paediatrician fit for our workplace, with a passion and commitment to child health at the policy level rather than just being technically competent in child health. The key principle here is that this development is primarily about and for children and adolescents, fundamental and centre-stage in mission and values. Support for this mode has been articulated3.

In an Academy model, training resources would be supported by the Academy. Certification of training and the qualification would remain with the RACP, so the qualification would remain unchanged. The separation of training from certification is considered educational best practice. As an example, in the US, the American Academy of Pediatrics undertakes training support, whereas the American Board of Pediatrics is the assessment and certification arm.

Further steps:

The RACP agreed to support further consideration of the Academy model. The RACP supported the development of a business plan for the Academy, and agreed to provide initial funding to enable the establishment of the Academy.  A working group has been formed to advance this initiative. A small group will form the initial Directors of the Academy. These people are Gervase Chaney, Kevin Forsyth, Frank Oberklaid, Peter Procopis and Jenny Proimos. An Executive Officer, Andrea Lloyd, has been appointed. Many people have responded to a call for expressions of interest in the development of the Academy. There is immense energy and goodwill from the paediatric community in Australia and New Zealand to this development.

References:

  1. Forsyth, K. (2015), Coming of age: Is it now time for paediatrics to form its own college?. J Paediatr Child Health, 51: 248–250. doi:10.1111/jpc.12631
  2. Forsyth, K. (2015), Academy of Paediatrics. J Paediatr Child Health, 51: 1046. doi:10.1111/jpc.12999
  3. Menahem, S. (2016), Australasian college or academy of paediatrics? Regarding forsyth. J Paediatr Child Health, 52: 971. doi:10.1111/jpc.13360

Kevin Forsyth, October 2016