During the early 1990s there was an increasing awareness of shortcomings in the provision of health services to the medical profession, and in particular the provision of assistance to doctors and medical students who had health problems that were causing, or likely to cause impairment. This concern was widespread throughout the profession, and investigations were made into possible solutions to the problem.
In 2000, Dr Taffy Jones was appointed the first Chair of the Board of VDHP. Dr Jones brought to this role strong recognition as a leader in healthcare services and a compassionate supporter of the medical profession. His commitment proved crucial in the early stages of the development of the program.
In 2001, the Victorian Doctors’ Health Program (VDHP) was established as a not-for-profit and fully independent entity, separate from the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria (MPBV – now AHPRA) and the AMA Victoria. The program has broad support from across the medical profession and is believed to be the first Doctors’ Health Program of its kind, outside North America.
In 2001, Dr Naham (Jack) Warhaft was appointed the first Medical Director of VDHP. Dr Warhaft came from an anaesthetics background and developed an interest in doctors’ health through working with anaesthetists who had become impaired as a result of chemical dependency. He further developed his knowledge in doctors’ health issues by working with US and Canadian physician health programs. Jack’s enthusiasm and passion for doctors’ health issues benefited the many doctors that consulted VDHP during those years.
In 2005, Dr Kerry Breen was appointed Chair of the Board. Dr Breen had been instrumental in the establishment of VDHP while President of the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria (MPBV) and was ideally placed to further this commitment as Chair of the VDHP Board. His hard work and passion for doctors’ health issues ensured the organisation continued in a positive direction.
Dr Warhaft stepped down in 2007 and VDHP appointed an interim CEO, Professor Greg Whelan AM. Prof Whelan provided invaluable assistance to the organisation by maintaining its services, providing financial guidance and inducting new staff.
Dr Jenkins' capable and dedicated leadership over a decade further enhanced the VDHP’s reputation. The education role of VDHP was developed by the organisation taking a consistent role in promoting doctors’ health and well-being through providing talks, workshops, and lectures.
VDHP built up a reputation as the go-to service for organisations and employers seeking advise and support about doctors and medical students who they were concerned about. In those years, the education role of VDHP was developed by the organisation taking a consistent role in promoting doctors health and well being through providing talks, workshops, and lectures.
Dr McRae has been overseeing a revitalising of the VDHP service. This has included attracting increased funding, alongside improvement in financial and governance structures.
In August 2020, Dr Kym Jenkins returned to the VDHP to act as the interim Medical Director. Since then, and in the context of the COVID pandemic VDHP has improved its ability to provide both its clinical and educational services by telehealth. VDHP has upgraded its IT services (especially cyber security) and website. VDHP again provides its wide range of educational services. VDHP has moved into a new office space to meet the needs of its participants and staff.
New temporary Victorian State Funding has been extremely welcome and timely, allowing for capacity building and increase response to colleagues in need.
The impact of COVID have significantly changed the medical landscape with extra demand felt through the system: from the beginning medical student to retiring doctor. Other colleagues such as International Medical Graduate, General Practitioners, and Trainees also have their own unique challenges.
The VDHP continues to focus on its prime mission: to promote and aid the wellbeing of medical practitioners and medical students.