Meet Katherine Dowson

Meet Katherine Dowson, the new Director of the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault (SECASA), filling the role vacated by Carolyn Worth after 27 years at the helm.

Three weeks into the role, she’s established that her new team has great experience, knowledge and value they can add to the wider Monash Health approach ending violence in our community

Katherine led Eastern Health’s response to family violence from 2016. She directed organisational reform within Eastern Health and the broader community, gaining sector-wide recognition in 2017 when Eastern Health was shortlisted in the Public Health Care Awards for leadership in Family Violence strategy and implementation.

She’s ready to take on her next challenge and says it’s a wonderful time to be working in this field.

How long have you been working in family violence?

“Over 20 years as a social worker, I’ve predominantly worked within the women’s and children’s space and family violence and sexual assault has been a huge issue my whole career.

“What a wonderful time to be working in this field. There is so much opportunity to make change. There is a significant focus from government and the community to make sustained changes.

“From managing social work at Eastern Health it was a natural progression following the Royal Commission to take up the role to head up the SHRFV team at Eastern.”

Whilst a credential social worker, Katherine also holds a Master of Public Health with a major in Women’s Health and Health Management. She is also currently a board member of Eastern Community Legal Centre.

Tell us about a few of your career highlights.

Katherine’s journey to the SECASA role has some other interesting and relevant professional stints, which have no doubt added a broad perspective to how she approaches her work.

“As a Senior Child Protection Practitioner I worked closely with SOCIT (Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team) with Victoria Police and within the Melbourne’s Children’s Court.

“I also had a couple of really interesting roles with MS Australia. I managed community services for MS Victoria, at a time of great upheaval in the funding space. It was an amazing challenge to redesign a service system in line with this, additionally I worked as the Project Lead for My Future, My Choice, and addressing inappropriate entry of young people into Residential Age Care Facilities.

“I  then job shared as the National Quality Manager, responsible for developing the organisation’s quality system and I learnt a lot under some very good mentors.”

What were you most proud of in Eastern Health’s SHRFV work?

“We put in place a really great workplace support program and partnered with EDVOS (Eastern Domestic Violence Service), who provided a worker just for our staff. It was really great to see the impact of this.

“We also established two health justice partnerships. One within the Eastern Health maternity service and one within our aged care rehabilitation services. I think it is an amazing demonstration of the need for family violence support across the lifespan.

“There was a great culture at Eastern Health. I have worked there twice in my life and this time left after five years. I loved working there. But what a role the Director of SECASA is! It is a great opportunity to continue and expand the work throughout my career and work with a highly specialised workforce. I am really looking forward to the challenge,” Katherine said.

What are the priorities for SECASA over the next 12 months?

Following in the footsteps of someone who has broken new ground and been in a role for 27 years is never easy, but Katherine is eager to take on the task.

When General Manager of Monash Health Community, Julia Oxley, announced Katherine was taking up the role, she talked about partnership and collaboration and Katherine takes up that theme.

“SECASA has a great reputation as a leader in sexual assault and family violence, providing Monash Health with significant credibility and expertise. The team provides expert clinical knowledge in trauma-informed practice which is crucial when working with individuals who may have or are experiencing violence.

“So much wisdom sits within the SECASA team and it is important that SECASA clinicians are empowered to lead the organisation in this respect. It will be wonderful to work with our colleagues within the broader Monash Health, particularly the social work and psychology programs in this space, to support the SHRFV rollout and more broadly the embedding of an organisational response to family violence.”

Katherine knows how challenging it can be to roll out the SHRFV model and make family violence work business as usual in a large health service.

“We will be working with our Monash Health teams to make sure we are asking the right questions, at the right time, in the right way. We want our community to know that we are here, we can help, and we will work with our partners to end violence of all forms within our society.”


Get the facts, not the flu

Have you had your influenza vaccine? Get your vaccine now to be protected before the peak flu season.

The influenza vaccine is the most important way to prevent influenza and it’s complications.

To learn more read our FAQs below:


1.    Why should I get the flu vaccine?

Influenza kills around 3,000 people in Australia each year. We have many patients who bring influenza into Monash Health putting our employees and other vulnerable patients at risk.

2.    Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?

No, the vaccine does not contain any live viruses and cannot give you the flu.

3.    Do I need to get the flu vaccine every year?

Yes, flu viruses are constantly changing. A person’s immune protection from the vaccine declines over time. Annual vaccination is needed for optimal protection.

4.    Are there any side effects to the flu vaccine?

The most common side effects of flu vaccines are mild and may include soreness or redness at the injection site, aches and mild fever.

5.    Could I still get the flu even though I’ve had the flu vaccine?

Yes, you may have been exposed to a flu virus before or after you got vaccinated. It takes about two weeks after you receive the vaccine for your body to build protection against the flu.

6.    Is the flu vaccine safe for older people?

Yes, the flu vaccine is especially important for older people and anyone with weakened immunity or chronic medical conditions. Research shows that the flu vaccine can even protect against heart attacks.

7.    Is the flu vaccine safe for pregnant women?

Yes. In fact, following birth, mothers who got the flu vaccine while pregnant have provided their babies with a bit of extra protection against the flu and other acute respiratory infections.

8.    Isn’t the flu just a serious form of common cold?

No, influenza can cause serious illness and in some cases leads to hospitalisation and death. Unlike the common cold, it may take several weeks to fully recover from the flu.

9.    I’m healthy, do I still need the flu vaccine?

Even healthy people need a flu vaccine. The flu is a serious illness and anyone can become sick with the flu and experience serious complications.

10. How easily can the flu virus spread?

Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, you can still spread the virus to others.

11. Could I still get the flu even though I’ve had the flu vaccine?

Yes, influenza is unpredictable and sometimes a flu strain which is not covered in the vaccine can emerge during the flu season and you may have been exposed to it.

12. Is it better for my body to build its own natural immunity against the flu?

The virus that causes the flu changes from year to year, so any protection your body develops during one flu season is usually gone by the next. This is why you need a fresh flu vaccination each year.

13. Will making a new vaccine each year make influenza strains stronger?

There is no evidence to suggest that current vaccines can create more dangerous variants of a flu strain.

14. How contagious is the flu virus?

Many people don’t realise influenza can survive for more than an hour in the air indoors, more than eight hours on hard surfaces and up to 15 minutes from tissues to hands.


For more information about the influenza vaccine, speak to your GP or other immunisation provider or visit


Stop the flu, before it stops you!

Influenza is a major cause of illness in the Australian community, and in some cases can result in death.

The annual influenza vaccination is the most important way to prevent influenza and its complications.

The virus changes each year, so it’s important to get the influenza vaccine every year.

Get your vaccine now for the best protection before the peak influenza season.

The influenza vaccine is provided for free through the National Immunisation Program for the following groups due to their increased risk of complications:

• Children aged six months to under 5 years
• Pregnant women
• People aged 65 years and older
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over
• People with chronic medical conditions

For people aged 65 years and over, an enhanced trivalent vaccine is available.

Influenza vaccines are now available from GPs, community health clinics, Aboriginal Medical Services and other immunisation providers.

The more people who are vaccinated, the less likely that the flu will spread in the community.

You’re not just protecting yourself when you get the vaccine, but you’re also helping to protect those who are at risk.

Stop the flu, before it stops you!

For more information about the influenza vaccine, speak to your GP or other immunisation provider or visit

Meet Christine

Meet Christine Power, the new Project Manager for the Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence Project (SHRFV) at Monash Health.

Christine comes into the role at a key time for Monash Health, with over 3,000 staff now trained in identifying the signs of family violence and initiating sensitive enquiry with their patients.

Christine is returning to Melbourne after eight years in the Northern Territory, where she has been working to implement a client-centred response to domestic and family violence.

She returns to Victoria after Victoria Police and the Crime Statistics Agency released its latest family violence figures to the media showing there had been over 340,000 family violence incidents in the decade to September 2018 and a 5.7% increase in the past year.*

How did you get involved in family violence work in the first instance?

I’ve always been interested in social issues and social policy because we know it can help deliver good health outcomes in the community and so that’s quite a motivating factor.

Originally, I was working at the Department of Housing and Community Development in the Northern Territory and I was developing a strategy for the safety officers, who were seeing a lot of family violence and its impacts during the course of their work.

As part of the national push to address family violence, the Northern Territory government developed a whole of government response. I was appointed to Project Manage the Department of Housing and Community Development’s response to family violence. We had no policy, guidelines or procedures or training in place for front line staff. There were varied attitudes within the organisation about family violence and the Department required a culture change to strengthen its ability to respond to family violence.

We were the first agency to publish a family violence policy, guidelines and roll out three different levels of training based on staff roles. We also changed HR policies to make it easier for staff who were personally impacted by family violence. Disclosing is a big deal; we need to ensure people feel safe and supported to do so. Particularly in terms of protecting their privacy.

On the basis of this work I was then asked to apply for a role within NT Health. With a small team of three we had to develop policies, guidelines and training and implement the model across NT Health.  It was a challenge in terms of navigating the health service’s governance and layers, so we set up governance models which helped us achieve good outcomes.

What motivates you to continue working in family violence?

I have friends and family who have been impacted by family violence. I’ve personally been impacted. It’s really common. It’s preventable and it can be changed, which is my motivation.

What are your top priorities now that you’ve started at Monash?

I think my question is ‘how do we know we are making a change or making difference?’, so I’m keen to look at how we are evaluating and measuring our effectiveness.

I want to make sure we’re clarifying roles and responsibilities and thinking about how we can help build people’s capability to identify and respond appropriately.

We’re trying to achieve a significant change and it won’t happen overnight when you are trying to change culture.

From your knowledge and experience, what is the most important thing we can do when we are working with victim/survivors?

Acknowledging and validating their experience and being non-judgmental. Work with people and asking them what they want to do – they are best placed to make decisions about their life, whether that is becoming safer in their home or leaving their partner. It’s important to meet people where they are. Anyone can find themselves in this situation.

What are you looking forward to with the move back to Melbourne?

I’m really looking forward to spending more time with family and friends and if you can believe it, my great aunt, Agnes Kluckhenn, who was my first flat mate when I was 19, turns 110 on Monday! She is the oldest living Australian and she’s sharp as a tack so we are having a big family celebration.

If you weren’t doing this work what would you be doing?

I think I’d still be working in social policy of some kind. I like fairness and justice and the process and governance that allows you to achieve it.

*reported in the Herald Sun on 21 March 2019.

Meet Emily

Meet Emily McCulloch, Paediatric Registered Nurse at Ward 3A Forest at Monash Children’s Hospital.

What is your role at Monash Children’s Hospital and what does it entail?

I work as a nurse on one of Monash Children’s Hospital’s surgical wards. My job entails caring for children before and after a variety of surgeries and procedures.

What has your journey been like at Monash Children’s Hospital?

My journey at Monash Children’s Hospital has been more amazing and rewarding than I could have ever imagined. The patients and families I have come across, whether it be long term patients or not, have all left a mark and it is so amazing making connections with the kids to make their experience in hospital a positive one.

I have worked at Monash for nearly two years and currently work at Ward 3A Forest and in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.

What are your biggest achievements since working at Monash Children’s Hospital?

My biggest achievement was finishing my Transition to Specialty practice program in Paediatric Intensive Care, and getting a place at University to complete a post graduate degree in Diabetes Education.

What major/new project or initiative is your team currently working on?

A major initiative that our ward is currently working on is the AppiOut project which is a criteria lead discharge initiative for patients who have a simple appendectomy procedure.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

The most rewarding part of my role as a Paediatric Nurse is the relationships developed with patients and their families while they are in hospital. Creating a fun and happy environment for these children in a potentially frightening time can make the world of difference. Something as simple as a smile, friendly face or positive attitude can go such a long way with these kids and how they remember their time in hospital.

If you weren’t working in your current role what would you be doing?

I would be an interior designer.

What is something that your team doesn’t know about you?

I secretly love listening to baby shark and the wiggles nursery rhymes that are continuously playing at our nurse’s station!

Meet Sarah

Meet Dr Sarah Zaman, Interventional Consultant Cardiologist at Monash Health and academic at Monash University. Sarah has an exceptional research background with a PhD targeting prevention of sudden cardiac death in patients who have suffered a heart attack.

She also leads research on the recognition and management of heart disease in women. As part of her ongoing research, Sarah has received an Early Career Fellowship with Monash University, is a Robertson Family Research cardiologist, and has been an invited podium speaker at the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand.

She has presented at over 15 national and international conferences and has over 25 publications in high impact journals. She is a lead investigator for the PROTECT-ICD trial, a multicentre international randomised trial targeting prevention of sudden death.

What is your role at Monash Health?

I am an academic interventional cardiologist at Monash Heart and Monash University. Through my clinical role I provide inpatient and outpatient cardiology care, supervise junior medical staff on the wards and perform stenting procedures in the catheterisation laboratory. This includes performing on call for acute heart attacks that require emergency stenting. I am also a doctor-researcher and spend 50% of my time researching prevention of sudden cardiac death in survivors of a heart attack as well as improving outcomes in women with heart disease.

International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action. Why is celebrating women important to you?

I think it is important to raise awareness of the issues facing women in the workplace – and also to show what we are doing about them. It is also a great opportunity to meet other like minded women and hear their stories.

Why is gender equity important to you both personally and in the workplace?

I think that we all should strive for equity – be it gender equity, racial or cultural equity, we all benefit from being part of an inclusive culture. In my workplace – cardiology, gender disparity is a huge issue – women comprise only 15% of cardiologists, and less than 5% of interventional cardiologists in Australia. Studies have shown that there is also a gender gap in the outcomes of women with heart disease where our female patients actually receive less appropriate medical therapy and have worse clinical outcomes. Improving gender equity in the cardiology workforce has been shown as a powerful way to improve outcomes of our female patients with heart disease.

The theme of International Women’s Day 2019 is Balance for Better. Is there something in your team that you do to ensure gender balance and gender equity?

We have started a women in cardiology group in Victoria and Australia/New Zealand that focuses on improving gender balance within the profession of cardiology. We have done this with regular networking events and the development of strategies to identify the barriers women doing cardiology, and the ways we can overcome them. Within Monash Heart we now have a new leader – Prof Steve Nicolls who has a strong focus on improving gender equity within the department and will help me lead a Women’s Heart Disease program starting in 2019.

Your article on Women in Medicine Gender Gap in Interventional Cardiology is very insightful. What made you passionate about gender equity in cardiology?

As one of only 17 female interventional cardiologists in Australia there is a huge gender gap in interventional cardiology (women make up <5% of the workforce). When we performed the above study, we were shocked to discover there had been more female prime ministers in New Zealand then there have been female interventional cardiologists! Every interventional cardiology conference I attended, I was struck by how few women there were – it was (and still is) common to see ‘manels’ ie all male panels in every symposium, with little to no female chairs or speakers. I also frequently heard about other fellows or trainees receiving inappropriate questions during interviews on pregnancy or child-rearing.

In 2018 myself and a few other like-minded cardiologists formed a Women in Cardiology group to identify and address the issues leading to this severe gender disparity. We published the data in JACC in order to increase awareness of the gender gap, and to start a conversation on the reasons for it – and how we can address it. As one of so few female interventional cardiologists I am passionate about being a role model, encouraging junior female doctors to pursue their chosen specialty and providing opportunities for them to enter training. I feel that interventional cardiology is such a rewarding and challenging career, and I want this career to be available to as many women, as men, who want to pursue it.

What advice would you give to aspiring females in cardiology?

I would recommend finding a mentor in the specialty who can help drive your career – a mentor who will give you opportunities in the clinical and/or research arena and who gives you positive encouragement. I would also recommend joining our group and attending our networking events – all accessible via

How have you managed work life balance being the only (female) interventional cardiologist at Monash Heart?

It is hard – but possible if you prioritise the main things that are important to you, and manage your time accordingly. On top of work and research, I prioritise my family (mainly my three-year old son!), playing touch footy and exercising … Of course having children, and the best timing for children, is tough at any stage of a medical career. Then balancing your career once you have them is even tougher! But it can work, and having either a good family network or a good nanny/childcare makes it easier!

Meet Henry

Meet Henry Ma, Adjunct Associate Professor, Director of Neurology and Head of the Stroke Unit at Monash Health.

What is your role at Monash Health and what does it entail?

I am the Director of the Neurology Department and Head of the Stroke Unit. My role includes running the neurology department, managing neurology and stroke patients and performing academic research.

Describe your journey at Monash Health.

I have been working at Monash Health for about 10 years. I was the Director of Physician Education, and I enjoyed the mentoring and teaching. I have been the Head of Stroke for about two years before becoming the Director of Neurology.

What are your biggest achievements since working at Monash Health?

My biggest achievement is transforming Monash Stroke into a state-wide Endovascular Clot retrieval Centre in Victoria, with state of the art stroke care provision to Victorian stroke patients. In addition, the Monash Stroke Unit is the largest stroke unit in Victoria with the most number of stroke patients discharged annually. I am proud of the comprehensive stroke care we provide at Monash.

What do you hope to achieve at the first Monash Health Neuroscience Research Open House?

I hope to showcase high impact research which will put Monash Health Neuroscience at the forefront of neuroscience research. The Open Haus will focus on exciting frontiers such as machine learning, regenerative medicine, informatics and computer modelling.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

Working with my neurology team at Monash and providing the best medical care to our patients.

If you weren’t working in your current role what would you be doing?

I would be doing full time clinical research.

What is something that your team doesn’t know about you?

I always wanted to become a computer programmer.

Meet Alice Robins

Alice Robins is a proud Yuin woman from Victoria. She completed her Bachelor of Health Science and Bachelor of International Development, followed by a Master of Speech Pathology at La Trobe University in 2017.
“I always wanted to be a speech pathologist, especially at a hospital,” said Alice.
In 2017, Alice had the opportunity to observe the speech pathologists at Monash Health during a five-day experience across Monash Medical Centre, Casey Hospital and Kingston Centre.
“It was a great experience, I had the opportunity to meet the speech pathology team and see how they work. It was such a nice environment and made me feel like I would love to work at Monash,” said Alice.
After this experience, she applied for the Monash Health graduate program and was one of two successful graduate speech pathologists in 2018.
“The speech pathology department and Aboriginal Health unit went above and beyond to support me,” Alice explained.
Alice is passionate about increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health care. Alice explained, “three per cent of the Australian population identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, yet they only make up one per cent of the health workforce. We need to go above and beyond to see what we can do to increase the workforce.”
Alice has been working on a Close the Gap initiative with Michelle O’Rourke, Head of Speech Pathology, to create an Early Career Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander speech pathologist position at Monash Health. The position offers a unique opportunity for an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander speech pathologist that has graduated within the last three years, and will provide professional development in a culturally safe space. The two-year position will rotate every six months across Monash Health sites, have the opportunity to attend the Healthy Koori Kids program, participate in an exchange program with Royal Darwin Hospital and receive cultural supervision.
This initiative demonstrates Monash Health’s proactive approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recruitment and retention. Not only is Alice committed to the Monash Health reconciliation journey, but she is also a member of Speech Pathology Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory and Reconciliation Action Plan Committees, where she provides positive, strength-based guidance relating to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“They are my people and if I don’t make a difference, who will? Aboriginal people helping other Aboriginal people makes a huge difference and ensures better health outcomes.”
For more information on Aboriginal Health and Employment click here. If you’re interested in ‘closing the gap’, join the Aboriginal Health and Employment sub committee for Equity and Inclusion here.

Welcome new graduates to Monash Health

Last week we welcomed our new graduates at the 2019 Monash Health Interprofessional Orientation.

Over 600 graduates are joining us this year, the largest intake of health professionals across Victoria.

We are excited to continue to grow our incredible workforce of medical, dental, pharmacy, allied health, nursing and midwifery staff at Monash Health.

The theme for the day was ‘Start the Conversation’, where where graduates were encouraged to develop relationships between professional disciplines, gain awareness of other health professional roles and recognise that Monash Health develops effective teams in addition to individual competence.

There was a welcome from Andrew Stripp, Chief Executive, along with members of executive including Cheyne Chalmers, Executive Director Residential and Support Services / Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Dani Ryan, Chief Allied Health Officer, Anjali Dhulia, Acting Chief Medical Officer and Wendy Ewing, Deputy Director of Pharmacy – Quality who shared personal stories about their professional journey.

Welcome 2019 graduates!

Meet Dr Jane Tracy

Meet Dr Jane Tracy, Director of the Centre for Development Disability Health at Monash Health. 

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.