Professor Jane Gunn AO and Dr Javiera Martinez Gutierrez honoured at 2023 RACGP Foundation Awards

Professor Jane Gunn and Dr Javiera Martinez Gutierrez

Congratulations to Professor Jane Gunn AO, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, and Dr Javiera Martinez Gutierrez, cancer Research Fellow at the Department of General Practice at the University of Melbourne, whose work was recently recognised by the 2023 Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Foundation Awards.

Professor Gunn was awarded the RACGP Peter Mudge Medal, which commemorates renowned scholar of general practice Emeritus Professor Peter Mudge AM.

It is awarded annually to the person who has advanced the discipline of general practice and the goals of the RACGP, and whose original research has the most potential to influence the daily work of Australia’s general practitioners.

Professor Gunn received the medal for the study “20 years of Diagnosis, Management and Outcomes of Depression in Primary Care (diamond)”, of which she was Lead Investigator.

The study, established in 2005, was a 13-year project that explored the course and management of depression in the primary care setting – recognising that most treatment and management of common mental disorders occurs in general practice.

Data from this study, collected from over 15,000 questionnaires and 5,000 hours of telephone interviews, was used to develop the Diamond Clinical Prediction Tool for depression. This tool was tested in a general practice based randomised controlled trial, Target-D, and was further adapted for the Link-me randomised controlled trial. It has also been embedded into the Department of Health Head to Health website.

The tool is intended for use in routine depression care in the primary care setting.

Professor Gunn said she was pleased that the transformative potential of this study had been recognised by the RACGP:

“It is an honour to receive the RACGP Foundation Peter Mudge Medal. I hope that this study will continue to transform the way we treat and manage mental health via primary care in Australia. Huge thanks go to my collaborators and the multi-disciplinary research team that made it possible – and of course to the study participants who were so generous in sharing their experiences with us,” she said.

Dr Martinez Gutierrez was awarded the RACGP Foundation Best Poster Prize for her presentation “Failure to follow-up abnormal test results associated with cervical cancer in primary care: How are we doing? A systematic review”.

This award is presented each year for the best research poster by a GP or GP in training at the RACGP annual conference.

“Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable but it’s still the fourth most common cancer among women globally,” said Dr Martinez Gutierrez. “For most people, the first point of contact they’ll make when they have concerns is with their GP, and that’s also where most cancer prevention and early detection occurs. If the follow-up of abnormal cervical tests is inadequate, this can lead to delays in cancer diagnosis and ultimately, poorer outcomes – so this is something that’s really important to get right.”

The review explored the factors associated with inadequate follow-up of test results for cervical abnormalities in primary and ambulatory care, finding that among other factors, younger age, lower education and socioeconomic status were associated with inadequate follow up. Having a regular care provider and direct notification of test results were associated with better follow-up care.

Dr Martinez Gutierrez said: “We hope this review will help highlight the crucial role of primary care in cancer screening. Most information in this review comes from first world nations, and more information is needed in developing countries where nationwide screening programs aren’t available. Self-testing of HPV [human papillomavirus] has proven effective, and more countries need to implement this to help people with a cervix prevent cancer.”

The full list of RACGP Foundation Award winners is available on the RACGP website.

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Susanna Ling