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. Kym Jenkins
MB.ChB, FRANZCP, MPM, MEd, GAICD
Kym is a consultant psychiatrist who began her career as a general practitioner. She has a long standing interest and passion for the well being of those in medical profession. In addition to her work at VDHP, Kym has led and developed many other initiatives and projects in this field. Kym is a sought after speaker about doctors health nationally and internationally.
Kym is the immediate past President of the RANZCP and the current Chair of the Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges.
Dr. Fiona McGlade
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, medical research and project support. Katerina has brought with her a wealth of transferable skills and experience of operations management.