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Senior clinicians join the fight against COVID

District's specialist staff contributing to vaccination effort.

Man wearing a mask standing in front of a room of people getting vaccinated
SydneyConnect Image: Professor David Handelsman AO

Sydney Local Heath District’s senior clinicians have joined the COVID-19 frontline, contributing to the District’s push to vaccinate about 90-thousand people every week.

Many – with decades of medical training and practice and hundreds of research papers to their names – are combining their regular jobs with roles at the District’s vaccination centres.

They’re joining other medical, nursing and allied health professionals who are able to give vaccinations after completing online and practical training requirements. 

Professor David Handelsman AO, the head of Concord Hospital’s Andrology Department, is among those who’ve stepped up.

While focused on research linked to his $3 million NHMRC Investigator Grant into prescription testosterone misuse and caring for his patients via telehealth appointments, Professor Handelsman has joined the team at RPA’s vaccination centre.

He’s providing specialist medical review of complex vaccination cases.

“My usual day-to-day specialist work is far removed from acute or emergency medicine, so I had to find some area where I could still make a useful contribution.

“I wanted to do my bit, whatever I could do, to help the efforts of so many healthcare staff contributing in whatever way they can,” Professor Handelsman said.

Professor Judith Trotman, Concord Hospital’s head of Haematology, and an internationally-recognised lymphoma clinician researcher, has also put her hand up to help.

The department’s adopted a virtual video conferencing system for most patient consultations, and Professor Trotman has now completed the training to be able to give COVID-19 vaccines – on top of her usual work commitments.

It’s another way Professor Trotman can help her immune compromised haematology patients.

“I realised the most urgent clinical need was to try and stem the tide of hospital admissions by getting as many jabs in arms as possible.

“As a haematologist, I know that many of my lymphoma and leukaemia patients can’t mount an immune response to vaccination. Vaccinating everyone else helps to protect them.”

Professor Chris Maher, the Director of the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health based at RPA, and 18 of his colleagues have also joined the effort.

Some of the team’s research projects have pivoted from face-to-face to virtual delivery with a trial of yoga for falls prevention running on-line and a trial of phone coaching, to aid people be more active, is helping vulnerable people.

“I just wanted to do something that was going to make a difference. It is tiring work as you are expected to vaccinate 15 people an hour over an eight hour shift; but it is very rewarding. “How often do you get to say you saved someone’s life?” Professor Maher, who trained as a physiotherapist, said.

One of the Institute’s Deputy Directors, Professor Cathie Sherrington, who was also a physiotherapist before moving into research roles, echoes the same sentiment.

“I am proud to contribute to this effort in a small way. It feels good do something to reduce the risk of hospitalisation from COVID that will help individuals as well as the health system,” she said.