Who We Are

A Brief History

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 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 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 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 Robyn Mason was appointed Chair of the Board in 2009 and Dr Bill Pring in 2011.

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. 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 Kym Jenkins was appointed Medical Director in 2007 and resigned in August 2017. During those years, VDHP expanded its clinical services providing not only assessment and triage but extensive case management and return to work programs. VDHP also 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 and providing talks, workshops, lectures and symposiums to match the needs of those requesting them.

In January 2018, Dr Tim Dewhurst took the role of Medical Director of the VDHP. Dr Helen Schultz served as Medical Director in early 2020 for three months.

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 video and telehealth. VDHP has upgraded its IT services (especially cyber security) and website. VDHP again provides its wide range of educational services. In preparation for the resumption of face to face services the organisation has built a new suites of rooms that have been designed specifically for the needs of VDHP and its participants.

Dr. Patrick Johnson

Medical Director

MB, BS, MPM, CertChildPsych, FRANZCP

Patrick is a Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist and Educator. He has worked with medical students, trainees, and medical colleagues across public and private practice.

Patrick started his medical career working predominately in Emergency Medicine. He then changed direction training in general, and later child Psychiatry, before studies in Psychoanalytical Psychotherapy. Until recently Patrick was the CAMHS Clinical Director for a major regional Victorian Service.  This involved collaboration with Paediatricians, General Practitioners, and other Specialists.

A particular focus has been on Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry, and he currently holds a position in the Anaesthetic Department at the RCH in the Pain Management Service.

In private practice Patrick has specialised in Psychotherapy for adults, supervision, and secondary consultation.

Patrick has experience in medical education and student welfare. He is an Honorary Senior Lecturer at Monash University and an Honorary Associate Professor at University College Dublin.  He has been involved in teaching and lecturing Medical Students; and in College Training and Exams of Local and Overseas Trainees.

Dr. Philippa Corby

Support Officer

Cheryl Wile

Senior Psychologist

BSocSc(Psych), MApPsych, MAPS

A Psychologist with Masters level training, Cheryl has worked at the VDHP since 2002.

As the programs Case Manager / Psychologist she is very passionate about helping and supporting doctors to understand their health issues and to access and engage in appropriate health care/ treatment. She regards a doctor returning to work after needing time off to address health issues as one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. She has published work in the area of Doctor’s health and hopes to publish additional material in the near future.   

When not at the VDHP Cheryl works in private practice and also has professional interests in End of Life Care, addictions, mood disorders and trauma. 

Katerina Colakovski

Program Manager

Katerina commenced her role as Office Manager and Executive Support to the Medical Director at VDHP in November 2020. She has been in the health sector majority of her career, working in fields such as higher education, government, dental health, not-for-profit and medical research. Katerina has brought with her a wealth of transferable skills and experience of operations management.