The birth of GPDU
Many people have asked me and so here it is…
GPDU is an online community of Australian and NZ GPs. It has no political or College affiliations and we are quite happy to keep it that way. GPDU is neither government, commercial or academically sponsored. It does not belong to the Colleges of ACCRM or RACGP, nor the AMA. Its actually quite nice to not have an allegiance. We cover clinical cases as well as peer support, ethical questions, quality improvement topics, leadership, politics, business management and the endless supply of queries on Medicare billing. It seems to contain the breadth of the Vocation of General Practice. There is diversity of culture, of religion, of practice locations; there are differences of opinion, there are male and female voices; there are academic researchers, educators and GP leaders. However all are GPs and I think it is demonstrative of the great strengths of Social Media and Technology. It is run by volunteer GPs and the flat hierarchy allows all to moderate and peer review.
GPDU began in the Victorian Faculty of the RACGP board room. I was then the Chair of the Women in GP with a fabulous committee. I had been active in Social Media for a few years and found the intellectual homeland of my profession on Twitter. The people on Twitter if carefully selected were highly engaged in the medical profession, innovators, intelligent and witty. They debated evidence, peer review and references that helped me keep up to date. I knew Dr Lindsay Moran Jayaram, from Twitter. Lindsay was a young GP in Leeds and I was privileged to know her first this way. I subsequently met Lindsay in Wonca 2013 Prague, at a workshop on Women’s Leadership I helped run with my now PhD supervisor Assoc Prof Lyn Clearihan. Lindsay informed me there she was emigrating to Australia and we stayed in touch to the point where she was now actively involved in the Women in General Practice Committee based in Melbourne, Victoria Faculty.
Knowing how international collegiate networks were so important we wanted to let the women of Victoria know we were there advocating for them. To the College back then in 2013 this was a no go zone. It was felt to be burdening GPs with the potential for spam. It was felt to be a high risk procedure and process that the College could not manage. We were very frustrated. It is acknowledged that the College is actively becoming familiar with this Social Media space now, but we could not wait. This was grass roots activism and a ground up need rather than a top down approach to a changing cultural paradigm.
So Lindsay suggested we do engage ourselves and I totally agreed. Lindsay asked me whether we should just restrict it to women GPs and I said; “No. Let’s expand the potential to the whole damn lot.” We had an audacious altruistic vision of GP engagement which reflected our individual experiences in the clinical world. Lindsay had been involved in the First Five movement in the UK and found that the social benefits of networking were impressive for GPs. I had seen the same in the informal communities of educative practice I had been involved with over the years. I thought we would get greater engagement using Clinical Scenarios and having a legitimate educative focus and so we went about crafting a Facebook group. It was all very much a suck it and see approach. Of course we consulted our representative Medical Defence Organisations who were enthusiastic about the reduction in GP isolation and benefits of peer education.
Jon Brown also a UK émigré had had a group in the UK facilitating transfers to Australia and he had the name GPs Down Under. He soon joined our fledgling idea and committee and up we went on the Facebook platform. Jon and Lindsay helped create the GPsDownUnder website that supports the Facebook group. Dr Penny Wilson from Western Australia, had just written a series of amazing blogs with international reach and Lindsay reached out to her. I knew of the fabulous Dr Tim Leeuewenburg of Kangaroo Island South Australia, and innovative educator on Social Media with an enormous passion for General Practice so we asked him. Dr Nicole Higgins from Mackay in Queensland, another early adopter of the benefits of Social Media and an excellent Medical Educator came on board soon after. Dr Gerry Considine from the Rural Flying Doctor Service and South Australia, whom Tim and I had known well via Social Media, also came on board after that.
There is a lot more of course about the academic; the philosophy and the facilitation. But they are the developmental years and this blog is about the birth. Jon Brown has provided me with some stats for the blog today which are posted below.
I salute my visionary fellow administrators and my wonderful GPDU colleagues. Even through the dark moments, the community is supportive, intelligent and reflective. I am so gratified that the conception and birth has resulted in such a feisty independent toddler with such great potential.
GPDU STATS MAY 2014-JANUARY 2016
Active Members 1482
Former Members 139
Activity Score 159.17
Engagement Score 39.09
NUMBER OF GPS, SPECIALISTS AND NURSES – 2001 AND 2011
2000 2011 Average
General Practitioners 32,000 43,400 3.1
Specialists(a) 15,900 25,400 4.8
Nurses 191,100 257,200 3.0
Australia 18,769,200 21,507,700 1.4
(a) Excludes Medical Practitioners not further defined.
Source: ABS 2001 and 2011 Census of Population and Housing
We are now 5% of the Australian GP population. Noting the annual RACGP conference attracts around 1100 GPs and costs around $900 plus flight plus accommodation plus unpaid time away from practice and GPDU is free. This is not to criticise the College Conference but provides a contrast in engagement and delivery of peer led education the essence of which is #FOAMed. Google that.