In this issue of hearing member and performance assessor e-news we interview new hearing member Dr Tom Salonga who was appointed as a hearing member of the Medical Council in July 2017.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I graduated from the University of Sydney in 1992, and completed a Master of Medical Practice from Macquarie University in 2014. I am currently a Career Medical Officer- Hospital Generalist working in Emergency Medicine at Hawkesbury District Health Service where I was the acting Director of Emergency from 2016-2017, Sydney Adventist Hospital, and Norwest Private Hospital.
I am a council member of the Australasian Society of Career Medical Officers.
What do you like most about being a Council hearing member?
I believe that the assurance from the general society fostered by the professional regulatory role of the Medical Council is an important adjunct to the clinical and teaching aspects of medical practice.
As a Council hearing member, I feel privileged that I can contribute to the process of maintaining standards for the medical profession.
On a personal level, I thoroughly enjoy the personal interaction with and learning from other members who inspire me by the way their personal values have been reflected in their career achievements.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a hearing member? How have you managed that?
Preparing for the first assessment was a definite challenge- this was helped greatly by attending the workshop organised by the Council before the assessment. As much as possible, I try to attend educational sessions arranged by Council, or at least read the transcripts of proceedings from meetings.
Not having formal legal training, I am still unaccustomed to the hearing process and report writing. As part of my preparation for a hearing, I find it helpful to read the recent reports and decisions of the Council or NCAT -particularly those that relate to the upcoming matter. Having these accessible on the internet has been tremendously useful and convenient.
What tips would you have for new hearing members?
I still consider myself a relatively new hearing member.
The inquiry and assessment process is really a team effort, and I have been fortunate to have benefitted from being with amazing team members.
During the first performance review I participated in, the two senior members noticed that I had become rather troubled by what I was observing.
The Chairperson reminded me that the vast majority of the 35,000 registered medical practitioners in NSW were performing well in their profession, and what I was observing was an exception.
This insight helped me greatly to frame the perspective on how to view the medical practitioners, who, by choice and/or circumstance, become exceptions: what choices, routines, habits, and thought processes has occurred in a practitioner that deviated from good practice, and how is it possible to remedy this.
So, tips? I would say to watch and listen to your other team members as well as the practitioner you are assessing.
Has the experience of being a Council hearing member, provided you with any insights that you find relevant to your work as a medical practitioner?
The more obvious insights from being on Council proceedings that has been relevant to clinical work has been the importance of clear communication with the patients and their family and documentation in the medical records.
Somewhat surprisingly, since becoming a hearing member, I have become more aware of the crucial role having healthy relationships, and possessing physical and mental health is to being a good medical practitioner, and this translates to habits, such as insisting my co-workers take their allocated rest breaks, and fostering a respectful team culture.