What is your role at Monash Health?
I am privileged to head up the Centre for Developmental Disability Health (CDDH) at Monash Health. The CDDH is a wonderful group of skilled and committed professionals working to improve the health of adults with intellectual and associated disabilities through a range of clinical, research and educational activities.
What makes you passionate about disability?
I trained and worked as a general practitioner prior to having my first child, Nick, 33 years ago. He has severe disability and, when he went off to school, I sought out opportunities to combine the expertise I had gained from being his mother with my medical knowledge and skills.
I was fortunate to meet, and be mentored by Dr Philip Graves, who ran the Paediatric Developmental Disabilities Clinics at Monash Health. I joined him in these clinics and, in 1993, also started working at the then new adult Centre for Developmental Disability Health at Monash University. I have worked in Disability Health ever since.
In 2015 our Centre joined Monash Health and this has created new and exciting opportunities to contribute to improving the health and healthcare of adults with intellectual and associated developmental disabilities. The health of people with intellectual disabilities in Australia is poor, with life expectancy being around 27 years less than the general population. I want to improve this outlook for my son, for his friends, and for all those with intellectual disability in our community.
What makes being on the disability subcommittee for Equity and Inclusion special to you?
Contributing to the Disability Subcommittee of the Equity and Inclusion Committee has provided an opportunity to contribute my personal and professional expertise to making Monash Health a more inclusive organisation. I am passionate about the inclusion of people with disability in all facets of our community life. Inclusion in school is vital both for optimal educational outcomes, and to enable all children to understand the richness and benefits of a diverse community. Similarly, inclusion in the workplace enables us all to benefit from diverse perspectives, experiences and abilities.
As a health service, we can better address the needs of people with intellectual and associated developmental disabilities, including autism and cerebral palsy, and, by doing so, improve health outcomes and quality of life. Our subcommittee’s focus on improving patient care and patient experience for this group of vulnerable Victorians is very important to me and I welcome the opportunity to contribute. I also know that if we get care right for people with intellectual disability, we will do so for many other vulnerable groups of patients.
Why do you think it’s important to celebrate International Day of People with Disability?
International Day of People with Disability provides an opportunity to celebrate the value and contribution people with different abilities make to our community. It also gives us all an opportunity to think about what we can do to improve the opportunities and lives of Victorians with disability.
What small acts can we do to support people with disability?
- When meeting someone with a disability, focus on the person and not the disability. Each one of us has far more in common than our differences.
- When people have severe disability, their healthcare requires an effective and respectful partnership between their health professionals, those who support them in their daily life and, to the extent possible, the person him or herself.
- As health professionals the starting point when assessing or treating someone with a disability is always how would I treat this person with this presentation/condition if s/he did not have a disability?
- All our patients require an individual approach, and many require us to adjust our communication and management to meet their needs. People with disability are among those who require thoughtful, respectful patient centred care.