The Australian Startup Aiming For Zero Waste In Healthcare

Globally, there’s been increasing awareness - and action- regarding sustainability and climate change.

Healthcare is no different.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the tonnes of unused, sanitised medical supplies found in well-stocked hospitals and clinics in the developed world?

The pristine cannulas and IV drips. The instruments in the operating room. Even the surgical gloves.

Melbourne anaesthetist Dr Martin Nguyen studied this with Hospital Sustainability expert Dr Forbes McGain and their team, and was perturbed by the findings that, in one week in Melbourne, 23% of waste generated from six operating rooms was recyclable. Was it feasible to recycle this waste? The study showed that, yes, it was, both financially and with infection control integrity.

This brought Martin back to his journeys on medical missions trips, where, he says, “in isolated pockets of Vietnam, I noted these communities were in desperate need for medical supplies, but did not have connections or the resources to reach out.” Furthermore, “we discovered (through our research) that there were unused items thrown out into landfill. This practice upset many staff who were avid reducers and recyclers at home, but had to be wasteful at work. They were keen to collect and donate these supplies, but did not know where to send it to.

“This is where the inspiration for Medical Pantry came from. The Medical Pantry sits in the middle to match the needs of undeserved communities with the generosity of the givers.”

Since inception, Medical Pantry has successfully donated high quality, unused clinical goods to communities worldwide, including in Tonga and Papua New Guinea. Led by Martin and a team of eager volunteers, goods are readily donated from hospitals and clinics, and are given to recipients usually via clinicians on missions trips and other aid ventures. Goods can also be used locally; wildlife sanctuaries have benefited, along with local businesses in Victoria’s Western Health district; local clinics may run short, and mechanics find the unused, sterile kidney dishes useful! However, Martin envisages a future where tech enables donors to match recipients’ needs directly online, saving further costs, time and resources that can then be put to use expanding the reach of their work.

A hospital in Papua New Guinea using donated goods from the Medical Pantry.

A hospital in Papua New Guinea using donated goods from the Medical Pantry.

“Our ultimate goal is for the Medical Pantry to not exist at all - for there to be no waste from the healthcare system,” says Martin. “But, while there is waste, the Medical Pantry will find a second life for medical supplies and stop it heading to landfill. I hope in future, this will be a national program with collection/distribution centres in each major city in Australia. I believe the data collected will raise awareness and feedback to those in healthcare to help achieve zero healthcare waste.”

Currently, Medical Pantry is in the running for up to $100,000 in local government grants to help with more permanent warehousing, distribution and storage. (People with Victorian addresses can vote for Medical Pantry to receive funds in this grant, until 5pm, Monday 17 September.) However, to fulfil its dream of recycling goods in other cities and expanding its reach, it will need more funding and support beyond this grant. It’s amazing what impact local work can have on global health.

To reach out to Medical Pantry regarding funding or other support, please visit or

All images in this article courtesy of Medical Pantry.

Melbourne Social Enterprise Pioneers Model: Giving Through Medical Education

First published July 26, 2017

There are many ways to give through your business or startup.

Who knew that by educating yourself for your fellowship exams, you are also helping by giving to those less fortunate? 

PhysEd gives you this sense of purpose.


Two Melbourne medical doctors decided to give through their medical education company, PhysEd, a two-week intensive preparation course for doctors preparing for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ Basic Physician Training Written Exam.


Inspired by ethicist Peter Singer’s book and organisation, The Life You Can Save, PhysEd gives 5% of revenue to charity, donating over five figures in its first year. The specialty exams are a gruelling time in any doctor’s life, and attending a course has statistically shown to improve your chance of passing. Having gone through the exams themselves, the founders know the high standards expected of course speakers and exam candidates. With this in mind, PhysEd incorporates a practical, immersive approach to multiple-choice question preparation, including a weekend MCQ intensive midway through the course, and high-quality, experienced presenters from many of Melbourne’s top teaching hospitals.

Let’s face it- going through the exams is a very competitive, self-focused time, spanning over two years of doctors’ lives, which can take away from the meaning of medicine- to give to others who need your knowledge. Medicine is about giving, yet, the competitive environment of training and striving to be your best on that one exam day can sap away one’s energy and original sense of purpose for medicine. PhysEd’s giving model helps you feel that you’re not alone- your studying is not in vain, just for your own score and knowledge – it’s helping others, including companies such as Medicins Sans Frontieres and Against Malaria.

To find out more and register, including a free, fully-equipped doctors’ briefcase for the Part 2 exams with full registration(!), head to

For an inspiring book from a pioneering social entrepreneur, read our review of TOMS shoes founder Blake Mycoskie’s book here

Photo credits:

Melbourne startup Nebula Health Raises $250,000 in Seed Funding For Best Perioperative Patient Care

First published June 6, 2017

What makes patients’ lives easier?

Having clear, up to date communication with their doctor and treating team.

The problem is, time pressures and administrative structures in most hospitals and clinics make this difficult both for patients and clinicians.

Australian surgeons Dr Paul Paddle and Dr Chandrashan Perera have created a solution for this. Nebula Health delivers smartphone reminders and advice via app directly from the surgeon to the patient, improving the quality of pre-operative care, post-op recovery and long-term health of their patients, in an easy-to-use and efficient manner.



Nebula Health’s new patient-focused app will help patients prepare for and recover well from surgery, with clear instructions tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Photo courtesy of Nebula Health.

As Chief Medical Officer Dr Paddle explains, “The concept for this app was borne out of my own experience and frustration. As a practicing ENT surgeon, I strive to check in on my patients at every step, before and after their surgery. However, in the time-pressured realities of medical practice today, it’s often not possible. With this app, my patients receive personalised directions every step of the way. In return, I receive real-time notifications of their compliance. As a result, my patients have more confidence in my abilities, are more satisfied and have better health outcomes.”

Frustration with the limits of current best patient care are what drive startups formed by doctors, nurses and other clinicians. Perioperative medicine is a standout opportunity for healthtech innovation, given the enormous breadth of surgical patients and cases, spanning from neonatal to paediatrics and adult surgery, and the non-surgical complications that can occur (such as cardiac events) amidst the high turnover of operative cases. A precision medicine solution like Nebula’s app could potentially also help those patients on waiting lists who are anxious about surgery or wanting advice in between appointments.


MAP launch 2016.jpeg

Melbourne Accelerator Launch Party 2016. Photo: The Medical Startup

Since completing their time with the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), Nebula have visited Silicon Valley with the other MAP graduates and iterated the initial concept of their product into a helpful perioperative app. What was the journey like as a clinician and startup founder? “We tested thirty (surgical) patients using a prototype. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and it encouraged us to develop this concept into a market-ready product.” explains Dr Chandrashan Perera , Nebula’s CEO. “Patient testimonials from this trial turned six surgeons into early customers. From this traction, we were able to close our seed round. This funding will allow us to grow the team and scale our services to more patients.” Indeed, at least two more medical doctors have joined Nebula‘s team, and Nebula’s vision has impressed angel investors including Rod Lyle, a board member of ASX-listed medical technology company Pro Medicus.

It’s been exciting following Nebula Health’srapid journey from the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP).  Other medical successes include compatriots CNSDose, a pharmacogenetics company who are now part of the Texas Medical Center’s Innovation Accelerator, and other graduates of the MAP program.

Currently, Nebula Health are looking for more surgeons in hospitals and clinics who are interested in their software. For a demo or more information, please contact Li (at)

Congratulations and best wishes to the team!

Creative Spotlight: Jewellery Inspired By Neuroscience, by Luke Maninov Hammond of Queensland Brain Institute

First published June 2, 2017


You’d be amazed by the treasures you find on Instagram.

If art and design can tell stories to engage a captive audience beyond science and medicine, Luke Maninov Hammond has done a stellar job.

I came across a snapshot of Luke’s designs via the Queensland Brain Institute’s Instagram. Luke’s work with fluorescence microscopy at the QBI has inspired his incredible jewellery designs and prints, which he has exhibited recently at Pieces of Eight gallery in Melbourne and will soon be showing at Brisbane’s Artisan Gallery from June 15.


 Beneath The Surface engagement ring. Luke: “This signature ring simultaneously represents the invisible worlds of cellular machinery, marine life, and dynamic connectivity within the brain. Designed as a pair, this engagement ring holds a 1.6ct Australian parti sapphire in 18ct yellow gold, surrounded by three brilliant white diamonds. Combined, the pair form a completed circle surrounding the sapphire with a golden halo set with six diamonds.” Image copyright Luke Maninov Hammond

As well as at his exhibitions, some of Luke’s work can be purchased at, with profits going towards schizophrenia research. He’s also at, and on Instagram@lukemaninov and Facebook Luke kindly provided insights for us about the mix of art, design and neuroscience while preparing for a new role at Columbia University, New York City.

Can you tell us about your neuroscience career?



When I was studying neuroscience, all I wanted to do was get involved in research on consciousness, but I took a side step and started an imaging project in a cancer biology lab with Prof. Jennifer Stow at the University of Queensland.   This is when I first started using microscopes to image fluorescent proteins in cells. 

It’s one thing to know that without your awareness, every single cell in your body is almost vibrating with activity and something entirely different to actually see it with your own eyes. Looking down into an ocean of darkness and seeing dynamic glowing worlds alive within cells was a profound experience that completely captured my imagination. 

A few years later I had the opportunity to join the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), where I worked to establish an imaging facility so these techniques could be used to study the brain. It’s been an incredible journey to see fluorescent imaging move from allowing us to see inside single cells, to watching neurons within the brain flashing with activity.  After almost 9 years with QBI I’m about to start a new position managing and establishing a new facility at the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behaviour Institute, Columbia University in New York City.


What did your work at QBI focus on?

My work at QBI was focused on establishing a microscopy facility that offered the world’s most advanced imaging capabilities and working with QBI’s researchers to ensure they could use these instruments to make novel discoveries about the brain. This included working on projects trying to understand how neurotransmitters are released, how axons regenerate, and how to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s or motor neurone disease.

Most recently my colleagues and I published a new paper in Molecular Neurobiology which contributes key insights into how vitamin D deficiency during embryonic development can alter the brain’s dopamine system.



Luke: “Within the In-Between” reveals the brain cells and their complex interwoven processes. To create this image, varying colours have been used to reflect the changing depths of the neuronal processes as they extend through the brain. This image was captured at high-resolution in 3D using state-of-the-art fluorescence microscopy at the University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute.” This is one of several limited-edition prints that can be purchased for schizophrenia research. Image copyright Luke Maninov Hammond

Fluorescence microscopy essentially makes the invisible worlds within cells and brains visible with glowing proteins and dyes. 

Due to recent advancements we can now see objects down to 20nm in size, that’s 5000x finer than a human hair, in living cells and tissue. It’s truly amazing what we can achieve. We are in the midst of a revolution for biomedical imaging, it’s a very exciting time for brain science.

How did you start making jewellery and fine art?

I started making jewellery and objects as a new creative outlet and a way of exploring 3D form. I primarily use a technique called “Lost-Wax Casting,” which involves sculpting and creating a wax object that can be transferred into precious metal.

I fell in love with the analogue process of working with my hands to create these forms, and have been experimenting with it ever since. There is an inherent joy in creating something out of nothing based on an idea which emerges at the edge of your imagination.

Agreed! What was the point when you realised the link between your neuroscience work and a physical expression of creativity?

My practice has always been about reimagining biological form to explore themes of impermanence, consciousness and connection between living things. From the beginning I think the jewellery I was creating was informed by the 3D imaging and analysis I was performing in science but a few years in I realised it made sense to explore neuroscience more deliberately.

What, if any, resistance or challenges have you had to overcome from others, or self-doubts from yourself, when crossing between the science and fashion/design worlds?

Certainly I’ve learnt to overcome a lot of self-doubt in teaching myself to create jewellery. Navigating a path between science and art can be challenging too, in the sense that you don’t want your involvement in one role to call into question your capacity for the other. While there can be a lot of overlap, especially in creativity and coming up with ideas, in science we are required to make unbiased, precise and accurate measurements in order to understand complex processes, and this is not always the work of an artist.

On the other hand, we are exploring an unseen world for the first time, and there is an important role for art to play in sharing this with rest of the world and communicating these discoveries in ways that capture our imagination. It’s encouraging to see growing interest in bridging the worlds of art and science.



Unfolding Object. Sterling silver, Australian sapphires, gold vermeil and patina. Housed in glass bell jar. Image copyright Luke Maninov Hammond

How did the Pieces of Eight exhibition come about (in Melbourne)?

Melanie Katsalidis, the Director of Pieces of Eight, began representing my work last year. When the possibility to propose an exhibition came up, I put forward the concept of “Beneath the Surface.” I only had a few weeks to work on the show, but the timing ended up perfect as I was able to complete the project just in time to be ready to move to New York.

What do you hope people will learn or gain from your exhibition?


The exhibition explores the story of green fluorescent protein, the glowing protein discovered in jellyfish by Osamu Shimomura, from which fluorescence microscopy and our ability to see the invisible stems. It draws parallels between the unfolding microscopic structures beneath our skin and those in the depths of the ocean.

I think it’s a story stranger than fiction, that our exploration of the sea has enabled us to illuminate the living brain and journey inwards.

I hope people will come away with an interest in what is being discovered in neuroscience and a sense of wonder in the hidden beauty within us. Part of the exhibition includes large-format cellular images of the brain, which we rarely get to share with the public, so I hope this will capture people’s imaginations.

As with my other work, the pieces represent the unfolding nature of life, encouraging reflection on our coming out of the world, rather than coming into it.



Enclosed Radial” ring. Sterling silver, Australian sapphires, gold vermeil, patina. Image copyright Luke Maninov Hammond

Neuroscience and ageing can be very intimidating subjects; how can we make the brain and neuroscience more accessible to others? 

It’s true, people can put a mental block on understanding topics like this as they appear intimidating. This is why it’s important for science to engage with artists and communicators to come up with novel ways of sharing discoveries and breaking down the barrier that exists between science and the general public.

I think microscopy has a key role to play here too, the images we capture are able to directly convey the story of disease and how the brain works. Often these images are never seen by more than one or two people, as they are distilled into graphs and data points for publication, but I hope we can find more ways of sharing them more broadly. I’ve seen some amazing reactions to the few images I’ve been able to share in my exhibitions and believe they hold a capacity to spark a genuine interest in science and self discovery.

Thank you Luke for your inspiration! Don’t forget to visit his “Beneath the Surface” exhibition at Artisan Gallery, Brisbane from June 15 and buy his prints at Profits from sales go towards schizophrenia research. 

Interview with Dr Linny Kimly Phuong, Founder of The Water Well Project

First published March 8, 2017


Happy International Women’s Day!

Future Paediatrician Dr Linny Kimly Phuong created The Water Well Project as a solution to the problems she saw in migrants, refugees and asylum seekers with varied degrees of health literacy. This not-for-profit runs free health education sessions for people of refugee or asylum seeker background. Volunteer healthcare professionals host education sessions on common health topics, such as healthy eating, and navigating the Australian healthcare system.

It’s a win-win for all parties. Not only do attendees regain a much-needed focus on their health, and learn what healthcare resources are available to them, particularly after traumatic life events; healthcare professionals also improve their communication skills and life perspectives by meeting people of diverse backgrounds.


Dr Linny Kimly Phuong (2nd from left) with other committee members at a City of Melbourne Awards presentation. Photo courtesy of Linny and The Water Well Project.

The Water Well Project was named to represent the safe space and traditional communal meeting place where many communities worldwide meet and talk whilst collecting water.

Through her work, Linny has gathered a great team of volunteers to help deliver sessions around Victoria; and was a state finalist for the Young Australian of the Year, all whilst completing her General Paediatrics and Paediatric Infectious Diseases training in Melbourne. If you’d like to support The Water Well Project through volunteering, donations or partnerships, please visit

We learnt about Linny’s journey below.


How did The Water Well Project begin? 

I definitely didn’t do this on my own.

And I didn’t set out to start a charity, it sort of just happened.

But I had a great group of friends and mentors who helped the idea get off the ground, and away we went.

What was the scariest thing about getting started?

Not knowing what the project was going to become.

How do you manage your time as Founder and Chair of The Water Well Project as well as your work as a Paeds ID fellow at the Royal Children’s?

Work life balance is not my friend right now. I am hoping 2017 is the year where this improves.

My clinical role is quite demanding, so I do a lot of work on the Project after hours and on weekends; and of course I have lots of helpers.

How has the Project helped you with your clinical work (and your life outside of medicine)?

Being involved with people of refugee and asylum seeker background always reminds me of the journey my parents came on to get to Australia.

In my clinical work, I have learnt how to work effectively with interpreters and better engage with individuals of refugee and asylum seeker background. I also love hearing stories about how people arrived in Australia and am always touched by their resilience.

Do you have any mentors or people you look up to for guidance or advice? Are they medical?

I am so grateful that I have had many mentors throughout my short career to date thus far. Some are medical, some are not. They all offer me differing viewpoints on life and provide me with a greater perspective on things.

How did you learn how to create a non-profit? 

A lot of reading and learning along the way!


Linny and other committee members of The Water Well Project. Photo courtesy of Linny Kimly Phuong and The Water Well Project.

What’s your biggest dream or goal for The Water Well Project?

I would love the operations of The Water Well Project to remain sustainable both logistically and financially; and for there to be a greater awareness of our organisation outside the medical arena.
My dream is that we are one day able to employ an inspirational CEO-like figure who takes on the responsibilities of maintaining and growing The Water Well Project. I would love for us to reach  those communities who would benefit most from our services, particularly those who are outside of metropolitan Melbourne.

Any advice for others wanting to create a non-profit or social enterprise? 

Do your research in finding out who you can work with within your desired sector. The best projects are collaborative and do not create unnecessary duplication.

How can people get involved with The Water Well Project, whether they are doctors or not?  

People can get involved in a number of ways- they can volunteer as healthcare professionals, contribute their skills in other support roles or make a donation to The Water Well Project.

To find out more about The Water Well Project’s upcoming events, please visit

Mayo Healthcare and Social Media Summit: Interview with Colleen Young, Community Director for Mayo Clinic Connect’s Online Patient Community

First published November 10, 2016

Colleen Young (@colleen_young on Twitter) is the Community Director of Mayo Clinic Connect, an online community for patients and their loved ones to connect with others experiencing illness. Mayo Clinic Connect is  a unique platform that also educates users about their conditions, and has regular input fromMayo Clinic doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Colleen is also the founder of Health Care Social Media Canada (@hcsma or #hcsma on Twitter). She has conducted extensive academic research into the potential of social media to help along a patient’s journey through illness. She kindly took time to answer questions about her experiences in the lead-up to the Mayo Healthcare and Social Media Summit in Melbourne, where she’ll be speaking next week.


Colleen Young, Community Director of Mayo Clinic Connect. Pic courtesy of Colleen Young.

How has social media transformed healthcare? 

The connectivity that the social web has afforded people is the single biggest innovation in healthcare.

It’s taken away the terminal illness of isolation, brought people together so they can learn, recognise their knowledge and share with others. This is true for providers, policy makers, researchers, educators as well as patients and family caregivers.


What’s the biggest advice you would give healthcare startup founders or clinicians who want to build a community for their patients or users?

Technology alone does not create community. To effectively connect people, foster discussions that build relationships and create circles of trust requires a human commitment. Many recognise the potential of online communities to affect change, such as provide support and reduce isolation, improve health, change a health behaviour or to even drive research or change policies. But behind every successful community is a leader or team of people that helps nurture the community and to constantly calibrate the fine balance between growth, activity and sense of community.


Mayo Clinic Connect. Pic courtesy of Mayo Clinic and Colleen Young

How can the risk of misinformation amongst patient communities be reduced? What are your thoughts on the best ways to moderate patient communities within hospitals, clinics, private Facebook groups or healthtech apps? 

Many health organisations are concerned about disclosure of personal health or other sensitive information and the proliferation of misinformation. However, if your community has clear policies, proactive community management, as well as active moderation and community participation, these concerns are largely unfounded for online communities. Clearly stated policies make it easy for moderators to modify—and in some cases remove—posts that contravene terms of use, such as commercial postings, advertisements, or impersonations; posts that relate to illegal activity; those that contain disrespectful language, and so on.


Community managers, moderators, and core members model behaviour and can guide members who may have unwittingly shared sensitive information or misinformation. Such modelling establishes and maintains the desired tone of a community. Communities with a secure sense of community can rely on responsive self-policing to correct misguided behaviour and misinformation. In fact, rather than removing misguided information, allowing and enabling community members to correct misconceptions and provide balanced debate can be a very productive bonding opportunity that deepens the sense of community and establishes the value of collective knowledge. Undesirable behaviour does happen in online communities, but responsive community management can maintain the integrity, reliability, and value of the collective community knowledge. (Colleen has written more about this at her website.)

How comfortable were your clinical colleagues initially when Connect launched, and what helped to make them feel more at ease with patient Connect communities if there was unease?

Mayo Clinic has long been a leader in the use of social media. Connect was an extension of our social media presence. Clinicians and staff have readily embraced the patient-to-patient exchanges and strength of the community on Connect which underlines a core value at Mayo Clinic – patients are knowledgeable and participatory members of their health care and well being.

Connect presents a unique opportunity for clinicians to be invited into the patient conversations. All provider participation whether it be in the group discussionswebinars or blog pages, is done in concert with the patients.

Hear Colleen speak at the Mayo Healthcare and Social Media Summit in Melbourne, Australia next week. Tickets are available here

We also interviewed Simon Pase, Video Producer at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbournewho will also speak at the Summit.

We’re grateful to have been granted media access to the Summit.  

Mayo Healthcare & Social Media Summit: Interview with Simon Pase, Video Producer at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne

First published November 9, 2016


We’re pleased to introduce Simon Pase, Video Producer at the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Creative Studio.


The Royal Children’s Hospital Creative Studio. Pic: courtesy of Alvin Aquino

Simon and his team in Melbourne create educational videos, photography and other media for staff, patients and families at the RCH. Their work helps thousands of children and their families each year adjust to illness and the hospital experience. Their team have also produced educational content in healthcare systems outside of the RCH, and for events such as the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal. Producing high-quality videos for varied audiences in the medical system takes a variety of skills from media, journalism, education, and storytelling, with a large dose of compassion throughout.

Anyone with an idea for a healthcare startup or social impact project can benefit from storytelling skills, and Simon’s passion for his work shines through in his interview with us. You can also catch him speaking at the Mayo Healthcare and Social Media Summit in Melbourne, Australia in November.

Can you tell us about your career journey?


I graduated from Film and TV production in 1996 and initially worked in production, and then for a couple of years in the UK. 

When I moved back to Melbourne, there were very few television jobs. So I used my skills as a copywriter in advertising. Years later, when I decided to do further study, I toyed with the idea of teaching. Many friends said “You’d be a great teacher.” But my sister had worked in teaching and didn’t think I’d enjoy it. It made me question, what would I want to do? That led to my Masters in Film and Television at RMIT

My partner was very supportive and worked full-time while I did my Masters and worked in Marketing part-time. At the same time, the RCH job came up. I had no idea it existed. 

I was working alongside photographers at Monash University who did know about this department at the RCH, and encouraged me to apply. It was run by Gigi Williams and they told me I had to do it, it would suit me. My sister had also worked at the RCH as an educational play therapist.

During my Masters’ Major project, I had the best combination of support from university and tools from the RCH. My scholarly interest during my Masters was Sports Documentaries, telling stories of the underdog, their depiction and the intersection of the struggle with sports and life. There are similarities with the RCH stories in this space.

I learnt very quickly, how do people want to be portrayed? Especially children and families.

Research into producing Sports Documentaries was a very similar parallel. 

Once you start here, it’s very addictive.

When I came, I had a very great mentor in Film and TV who took me on an immediate orientation to the hospital environment. His name is Rob Grant, who’s spent 26 years at the RCH. He’s very quick to introduce you to people, their departments, what they do, and how the hospital functions. People are very generous with their time here and are very open. There’s a lot of trust. 

(People at the RCH) feel comfortable including us in their work. 

I learnt how to demonstrate a procedure, and how to tell a person’s story. 

We also work with other hospitals, which is a privilege- we learn how to win the trust of other people, and are always conscious of the privilege of working with others to promote their hospitals. 

When I came to the RCH, I found it’s a place of incredible optimism.

You film kids having open heart surgery for congenital heart disease, and it’s so profound to watch. 


Filming a surgical procedure at the RCH. Pic courtesy of Simon Pase/RCH Creative Studio

I thought, this hospital can do so much. The optimism, the people committed to research. 

Also, you get to observe specialties that normally don’t get as much heroic publicity, such as mental health, yet their work is just as valuable. 

How do you approach a story on a less-publicised or under-acknowledged medical issue?

As an example, here’s a project we did for the Festival of Healthy Living, an Arts Program for communities that have experienced hardship such as bushfires. These communities tend to have a higher incidence of mental health issues and even youth suicide. The program tries to build a lot of structure for community and skills. We were asked to do a film about it. 

At first, there was a very strong reluctance to show these people. We were concerned about exploitation, and it took awhile to figure out how to portray people who may have gone through a significant ordeal. 

Eventually, we realised – humans are very resilient, and kids mean more to us than anything. If that’s the story we can tell, that parents will want to make a better community for kids, that’s a positive story. We interviewed three fantastic sets of parents, and told stories about anxiety and being accepted. And it was tremendous, telling it this way from people who’d gone through it and benefited from it, it had a really positive outcome. 

“Show, don’t tell” is a rule we try to stick to.

Video is an emotive medium, it’s from the entertainment world which is emotive. Video tries to inspire people to do something, to have the confidence to come into hospital (such as through our “Be Positive” video series teaching children about hospital), and undergo treatment, (and then continue that treatment at home).

It’s fantastic that people are conscious now about storytelling. 

When we tell stories, we make sure we are doing the right thing by our subjects. It’s a huge responsibility. 

My favourite project- there are many- but the first time I felt satisfied about my job here, was after doing a video on how to change a tube on a liver transplant recipient, for children going home after a transplant.

It was an easier video to make, but the feedback from the liver transplant nurse two months later was amazing. She said that parents are not scared to try it at home anymore, they feel confident about managing this. 

It’s really positive. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to make sometimes, but they can be the most impactful videos to make because you know the audience will use its lessons in some way. 

The other one was about the triggers of anxiety in children and how the RCH manages it. We have special programs funded through the Good Friday Appeal.The Head of Educational Play Therapy spoke at an event for the Appeal and we created the “Mastery of Fear” video to show the impact of fundraising. When I came up with the idea, it was like an idea you have in your mind that you can’t explain to everybody, but you just do it. And it worked. 

Learn more from Simon Pase and other international speakers at the Mayo Healthcare and Social Media Summit in Melbourne, November 2016. Tickets are available for their Summit, Residency and Film FestivalhereFollow on social media via #MayoinOz. and on Twitter @MayoClinicSMN.

 A selection of the Royal Children’s Hospital Video work can be found hereWe’re grateful to the Mayo team for granting us media access to the Summit. 

We wrote about two Australian healthcare startups using social media in interesting ways- revisit our article at this link

Edit 10 Nov ’16: We incorrectly stated that Simon studied his Masters at Monash; it was actually at RMIT

Meet Google Impact Challenge Winner Dr William Yan of “Vision At Home”

First published October 24, 2016


Update 26 Oct ’16: William’s project has WON the Google Impact Challenge! Thank you to everyone who voted and showed your support for bringing eye testing to remote and mobility-challenged communities. Congratulations William and CERA! 

Dr William Yan and his team at the Centre for Eye Research Australia are finalists in this year’s Google Impact Challenge. Their project, Vision At Home, is an algorithm-based software that accurately tests visual acuity (eyesight) via webcam at home. Vision at Home helps rural, remote and mobility-impaired users access easy-to-use, high-quality testing through feature recognition, particularly in rural areas with little or no access to ophthalmologists. There is scope for Ishihara (colour blindness testing) and visual field testing to be added to this evidence-based software.

Will shared with us his journey from surgical residency to PhD candidate to Google award finalist.


Dr William Yan, Surgical resident and Ophthalmology PhD candidate. Pic courtesy of Will.

What was the inspiration for Vision At Home?

Vision At Home was inspired by the Australian health gap, and how technology has already changed our lives in so many ways. Less than 1% of eye specialists work in remote Australia, but almost all these areas have access to the internet. Time is not on our side to bring changes in infrastructure to remote Australia, given its size and vastness, so telemedicine is a shortcut and means of bridging the gap sooner.

What has been your pathway through medicine so far?

I’m a second year Surgical resident from Melbourne – I knew I wanted to do more after internship and be a bit creative. I’ve always had research supervisors who’ve inspired, challenged and supported me. This year, I spent six months overseas working on several projects together with my PhD. The background to this was always finding interesting topics to start and run short projects on throughout medical school.

To be honest, I haven’t always known I wanted to do ophthalmology but I have always had an interest in eyes. My vision was saved by ophthalmologists growing up but there were so many different specialties in medicine that I wanted to try for myself before deciding on a career. I spent time at the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital, Melbourne in my final year of medical school, which was a real highlight. I really enjoyed my experience and seeing the impact of the work. I’ve met a lot of really inspiring, humble clinicians and innovators in ophthalmology – it’s a culture I really like.

How has your research helped you and your team create a healthcare program with global impact?

Being enrolled as a postgraduate research student opens up a lot of doors and opportunities. For starters, it positions you to have close relationships with outstanding academics and leaders, and to be involved with creative discussions, ideas exchanges, and to learn about how the gears turn outside of clinical medicine. Additionally, you’re eligible for support from the University in the form of grants, workshops, exchanges and project seed funding.

How have your mentors and supervisors helped you along the way? 

Through hearing what people are working on at CERA,what they’ve achieved and some of the big questions being asked. It’s been a privilege working with Prof. Mingguang He from Melbourne University, and Prof. Robert Chang from Stanford as part of the Vision at Home team, who’ve become my mentors and role models.

How long has it taken from idea to now to form Vision At Home?

Vision at Home has taken nearly two years to translate. Right now we are on the cusp of delivering it to Australian communities as a tool to improve access and establish a national vision screening program/platform. In 3 years, with Google’s support we will reach 100,000 people through Australian homes, clinics, hospitals and schools and over 500,000 people in developing countries where 90% of the world’s vision impaired reside. To get this project into the hands of everyone who needs it, we need support and votes! We’re giving people a tool to save sight, and empowering them to see tomorrow.

To vote for Will and CERA’s project, visit Australia’s Google Impact Challenge website by clicking the banner below.  


Creative Spotlight: Dr Vyom Sharma, General Practitioner and Magician

Dr Vyom Sharma is an Australian GP (Family Medicine/Primary Care Physician) and professional magician. He and his friends Luke Hocking and Alex de la Rambelje perform internationally as The Gentlemen of Deceit. From playing phone tricks on Kelly Osbourne on Australia’s Got Talent, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival to events in Taiwan, Vyom juggles his magic work with his passion for General Practice. A graduate of Monash University, Vyom also speaks at events, including previous Australian Medical Association student conventions.

We sat down with Vyom prior to his recent Melbourne and current Sydney shows with The Gentlemen of Deceit, to learn about his journey. Tickets for the Sydney Opera House shows are still available here.

“I started in my first year of medical school. A fellow med student, Rob, was good at sleight of hand, so I started learning from him. The first three years were a period of intense learning, and doing 5-10 minute spots on stage.


The Gentlemen of Deceit performing one of their tricks. L-R: Alex de la Rambelje, Vyom Sharma, Luke Hocking. Pic courtesy of Dr Vyom Sharma

The hardest thing was doing it by myself. Medicine is difficult, but others are there too, and generate camaraderie during the course.

Whereas with Creative pursuits, your own path is incredibly unique. However, Melbourne has a very tight-knit Magic community. 

I started working as a magician in restaurants. It was a good example of being thrown in the deep end! Years of rehearsal couldn’t have given me that experience. Then I got accepted into the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

You need the experience before doing the work.

We walked in as boys, and out as men. Then that led to my biggest challenge: producing my own standalone show, Seven Stories. I didn’t have a lot of time, so I took some bold, unconventional steps to get it ready.

Coming to magic late, you find you’re more willing to take risks, and I’m up for more challenges as a result.

There’s a solid chance of failure, but what matters is to fight your ego, and realise how badly you don’t want to fail.

Medicine is a very risk-averse profession. You’re looking at longterm goals while working your day-to-day. With Magic, there’s a very fine line between success and failure. There’s the risk of incredibly public humiliation in an instant.

Performing on stage helps you realise the disparity between how you view failure and what it actually feels like.

It’s very interesting to switch between one perspective of failure in Medicine and another in Performance. I think Medicine should teach that your decisions are only as good as the information you have available at the time. A lot of people in Medicine look back and regret. But we are far more in control (of our decisions and pathways) than we realise.

In Medicine, people tend to praise the success, not the attempt. 

It’s like success is an algorithm, not about putting yourself out there (and giving it a go). This is the benefit of having an outside pursuit. 

The     Gentlemen of Deceit     on Australia’s Got Talent. Pic courtesy of Dr Sharma

The Gentlemen of Deceit on Australia’s Got Talent. Pic courtesy of Dr Sharma

Being a magician has helped me be a better doctor. It helps with building rapport. And it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself at a show when you’re looking after someone in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) the next day.

I really enjoy listening to people.

And I enjoy being a GP. It’s a specialty which encompasses a bit of everything.”

The Gentlemen of Deceit are playing at the Sydney Opera House tonight (October 16th). Tickets are still available here

How Two Australian Medical Startups Are Inspired By Social Media

First published October 6, 2016

The power of communication is something that fascinates The Medical Startup.

Perhaps it’s our experience from looking after stroke patients who’ve lost the ability to speak.

From meeting patients who speak English as a second, third, fourth or even fifth language, and being awed at their skill.

From speaking with non-medical professionals who are trying to break into healthcare and learn healthcare’s language, and vice-versa.

Or from recognising how difficult it must be when an Australian doctor moves to work in a US hospital, and gets stumped by differences in common hospital terminology (read: ER versus ED; or in the UK, ICU vs ITU; or even paracetamol versus acetaminophen, which I encountered on a flight one day. Add in the accent difference, and you’ll see what we mean!).

This fascination with communication in medicine was what inspired us to connect with the Mayo Social Media Summit, which will be in Melbourne next month. Below are two Australian medtech startups founded by medical doctors, and how they’ve used social media with their apps.*

One through instant messaging, and one for the cancer journey. 

1. Bleep


Bleep‘s hashtag feature as inspired by social media. Free download on GooglePlay and the AppStore. Pic courtesy of MedSquared

Sydney-based medtech startup Bleep took a page from social media by cleverly including hashtags to group conversations within its clinician messaging system, and using the “@” system popular with Twitter and Instagram to directly contact particular team members looking after a patient.


Emergency Medicine doctor Joe Logan and co-founder Sarah Humphreys wanted to make messaging easier, secure and more efficient for healthcare workers within hospitals, residential care facilities and other clinical care centres. As Dr Logan explained, “At work, I receive texts, phone calls, emails and paper notes from members of the care team, making communication inefficient as it’s often between two parties rather than the multidisciplinary team.” Not to mention the confusion when a four-digit pager number is entered incorrectly and directed to the wrong person or team, wasting precious time in an emergency.

With Facebook and Twitter already on most peoples’ phones, this means Bleep takes a familiar practice from out-of-work communications to implement safer and better targeted messaging systems in clinical care.

2. CancerAid


CancerAid makes the cancer journey easier for patients, loved ones and healthcare professionals through several features including its Journal, Treatment diary, Opt-in Research, and Newsfeed. Pic courtesy of founder Dr Nik Pooviah

Another Australian startup, CancerAid, has successfully used storytelling and community-building to help humanise the earth-shattering cancer experience for would-be users of their app.

Founder and Radiation Oncology registrar Dr Nikhil Pooviah was struck with his CancerAid Awards inspiration one day as the app was preparing for its soft launch on the AppStore. (Stay tuned for Android news.) Celebrating the victories of cancer patients, oncology researchers, charity fundraisers, and others in the Oncology world, CancerAid’s growing reach speaks volumes about the power of sharing experiences to help deal with a tremendous burden of illness.

CancerAid‘s Symptoms Journal solves the memory recall problem encountered by patients and care providers in clinics worldwide, allowing better tracking of side-effects and other problems. Pic courtesy of CancerAid

Furthermore, CancerAid’s Awards and Championsconcept empowers users to treat the cancer journey not as a setback, but as a temporary hurdle, a race of sorts, with a Winning mindset from the start.

What strategies do you use involving social media with your healthcare solution? Leave a comment below or Contact Us if you want to share privately.

The Mayo Social Media Summit is for anyone interested in how social media can help solve problems in healthcare. They also run a course for medical professionals navigating social media. Tickets for the Summit in Melbourne are available here. 

*The startups listed are not affiliated with the Mayo Clinic. If you’re interested in learning more about either startup or enquiring about trialling either at your hospital/clinic/service, contact them at the links in this article. Both Bleep and CancerAid are currently available on the AppStore for free download.  Bleep is also on GooglePlay.