Fashion and Sustainability: How Can Medical Workers Get Involved?

Next week, I’m excited to attend LEGACY Summit, presented by Ndless: The New Normal and Fashion Revolution.

LEGACY Summit is a Responsible Fashion Summit. It will have huge talks and workshops on sustainability; ethical work practices; the health issues of the textiles and fibres we wear and consume; and the impact of fashion on our planet. Whether you’re a startup, a consultant for McKinsey (who’ll be there too!), a student, or a curious industry outsider wanting to learn more, it’ll be fantastic to attend and meet great friends sharing the same interests.

It’s incredible (and btw, heads-up for my new project below!), and I can’t wait because it’s something I don’t really get to talk about with other doctors except as a consumer.

Living in Cairns last year, everyone was very conscious of sustainable living and recycling practices. The Great Barrier Reef is on our doorstep, and Banana, Sugar Cane farmers and Daintree rainforest residents and visitors coupled with the proximity to cyclones and the isolation of rural living meant that locals were very conscious of how we could save the planet, one small step at a time.

That includes being one of the first cities in the world to promote paper straws at their bars. Kids running projects like Straw No More on Instagram have done huge things to promote international awareness. Locals were alarmed that international tourists would be served canned drinks on board the Reef ferries; and then find that plastic straws included with the cans were often dumped into our beautiful ocean!!

Coral bleaching from global warming was also a frequent topic in the Cairns Post, and even the changing lifestyle habits of crocodiles were discussed in the media as a potential consequence of global warming. (Hint: the risk is higher in the summer, or wet season in the Far North. But really, just don’t swim in the waters up there, and beware the yellow signs warning of crocs!)

Anyway, as healthcare workers, and as a doctor, I frequently find that I’m having to explain myself when I tell even close friends that I like fashion.

Yes, I love getting dressed up, I love understanding my style choices, and I LOVE understanding the impact of textiles on my own body when dressing for humidity vs frigid temps (and that’s been a frequent consideration when flying between Cairns and Victoria, the ACT and Tasmania in winter!).

But I also love global health, and the fact that the whole world, from Hong Kong Tatler to Calvin Harris to our supermarkets, is talking about sustainability. (Medical Pantry is also inspired by this!)

I think it’s silly and ignorant to dismiss fashion as frivolous. We could spend all day talking about the body shaming issues that have led many to believe this. But as the planet’s largest industry, as clinicians and healthcare workers (and social enterprise startups!), it would be amiss of us to not acknowledge fashion as an important topic that can be worked on by doctors, nurses, physios, dietitians (plant-based fibres, anyone?), podiatrists (think of the great sole materials that can be made from fabric offcuts! Think of Allbirds shoes and other cool startups!), and others in medicine and healthcare.

At any rate, our patients care. It would be wrong to not acknowledge that.

Tickets are still available for Legacy Summit. Other ways you can get involved in the conversation:

1) Attend talks like those at VAMFF (on this week!) and other local fashion festivals

2) Participate in Fashion Revolution

3) Form a blog. Yep, I’m putting together a new blog and podcast, Incredible Wearable, that will explore the intersection between fashion tech, sustainability and health. You can start by following @incrediblewearable on Instagram.

4) Advocate with your College if you’re a member. The RACP has a portal for Climate Change resources for Doctors, including links to The Lancet studies.

5) Open your mind and heart to the possibilities when you don’t silo industries and topics into separate categories. Garment workers in developing nations working in factories with poor ethical practices suffer the health consequences of these practices. Healthy eating for the planet is also an important topic that’s related. EAT Foundation is a recommended resource to get involved with.

6) Global Ideas and other global health events and forums, and webinars, and ecourses, and MOOCs (see our Resources page!) are all great ways to get involved and learn. Once we grow together, we’ll have stronger voices to advocate for all this.

What are your thoughts? How are you involved in sustainable fashion?

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.

How Can We Be Leaders Through Healthcare Technology? Day 3 of HiNZ and the New Zealand Nursing Informatics Conference

First published November 7, 2016

This week, we’ve been inspired by the many speakers who have made career leaps: from clinician  to academic; from clinician to ICT (Information and Communications Technology) specialist; and even from accountancy to the public service in healthcare. Here are some of their insights from Day 3 of HiNZ, and the concurrent New Zealand Nursing Informatics Conference:

1) Videos of nature scenes played via app, with or without music, can help reduce pain perception and level of anxiety in the perioperative period. Professor of Nursing, Margaret Hansen of the University of San Francisco,  was inspired to investigate the power of visualisation in dealing with pain, after experiencing a severe illness herself. Her feasibility study, performed as a randomised controlled trial, has shown these promising effects, and will lead to further study- perhaps even in Virtual Reality!

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Prof Margaret Hansen of USF demonstrates one of the app’s Nature videos at the NZ Nursing Informatics Conference 2016. Pic: The Medical Startup

2) “We need to collaborate with our international colleagues,” said Lucy A. Westbrooke, who is the New Zealand ambassador for the International Medical Informatics Association – Nursing Informatics (IMIA – NI). From her diverse career in nursing, leading to executive and chairperson positions in New Zealand health informatics and telehealth, she described some of the various international meetings and opportunities helping to achieve this goal.


3) “You don’t design systems for the most technologically agile; it has to be for the users,” Dr Simon Kos, Chief Medical Officer of Microsoft advised. Having experienced healthcare both as a clinician and as a software engineer, Dr Kos gave insights into the future of medical education with virtual reality through Hololens. 

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Dr Simon Kos, Chief Medical Officer of Microsoft at HiNZ 2016. Pic: The Medical Startup

4) Finally, NZ Ministry of Health Director General Chai Chuah posed the question: What kind of leader are you (in healthcare)? “Today’s global leaders understand and lead the art and science of disruptive change,” he said, acknowledging the combination of both art and science in medicine, technology and healthcare.

Leadership isn’t always about being the first to present an idea, or the first to use a new technology. Leadership can occur at an individual level. As an example, guiding a patient to a tech solution enabled by a District Health Board (DHB), such as A.Prof Robyn Whittaker has done with her project with Waitemata DHB. Her research findings from a messaging reminder service for behaviour change showed that patients benefited from this service. Or coordinating an entire Australian Territory’s telehealth services, as Michelle McGuirk does in the Northern Territory; or encouraging a patient to keep an app-based symptom journal.

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A/Prof Robyn Whittaker, Medical Doctor and Digital Health lead at Waitemata DHB presents her Behaviour Change Messaging project findings. Pic: The Medical Startup

You can view sessions from 2016 and 2015 at with membership. Catch up on Day 1 and Day 2 highlights as well.

We thank HiNZ for providing media access to the conferences and opening our eyes up to these incredible experiences.  

The Virtual Ward Round Is Here: Highlights from Day 2 HiNZ, Successes and Failures in Telehealth, and the Global Telehealth conferences

First published November 2, 2016

We’ve been very inspired from the talks and positive atmosphere at HiNZ, SFT and the Global Telehealth conferences this week. New Zealand is a country that deserves a lot more credit for their innovation in medicine and global healthcare. Here are some of today’s highlights:

1) Virtual Ward Rounds and Consults help patients and clinicians alike feel supported and at ease with care. Dr Eddie Tan, nephrologist from Waikato Hospital, spoke about the “hub and spokes” model of care that Waikato Hospital and its satellite rural hospitals and clinics run. With hundreds of kilometres between sites, Dr Tan and his colleagues are on planes at least every fortnight for clinics that may last just a few hours before returning back to Waikato. This is problematic when rural patient emergencies develop; however, Telemedicine with videoconferencing to the satellite clinics has helped the Renal team conduct assessments, minus the hours and dollars spent on travel (and minus hours of patient/family stress). It has also prevented unnecessary hospital presentations, and brought critical patients to hospital sooner.

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Dr Eddie Tan, kidney specialist at Waikato Hospital NZ discussing Telehealth in Renal failure. Pic: The Medical Startup

Dr Tan’s colleague, Waikato District Health Board (DHB) renal nurse Jenny presented her research paper on how palliative care decisions were made easier with telehealth’s videoconferencing capabilities. This meant that difficult and time-critical family and patient conversations could be had in the comfort of the patient’s home, without wasting precious time in the potential final days of life arranging hours or even days of transport for the same consultation.

Dialysis ward rounds also help Dr Tan assess end-stage renal patients who may deteriorate very rapidly and become fluid overloaded.

Similarly, Rehabilitation ward rounds by telemedicine has helped patients in a rehabilitation ward feel happy and secure with their care. Registered Nurse and PhD candidate Sophie Gerrits’ research has so far found that rehab patients and staff at Thames Hospital, Waikato DHB New Zealand, are happy with the consults, and the elderly patients have adapted well to the new technology. The Ward Registrar goes from bed to bed with a telecart, and the Rehabilitation Physician or Geriatrician video-calls weekly in from the tertiary hospital, in addition to their usual weekly face-to-face visit.


Staff appreciated having a second chance during the week to ask questions and raise issues that had arisen in the days since the last visit. The main issue to overcome was “patient jitters” at not knowing what to expect from a video consult and what was expected of them. This reinforces the need to counsel patients prior to a consult; that they can speak, behave and ask questions just as they would if the clinician was in the room with them.

2) Telestroke Improves Door-to-Needle Time in New Zealand

Yesterday, Dr Chris Bladin of the Victorian Telestroke Program discussed the very promising findings from the Victorian Telestroke Program research in rural hospitals, with hopes to expand to other Australian hospitals. Today, New Zealand Neurologist Dr Anna Ranta showed that since Telestroke has piloted from 3rd June in the Capital and Coast DHB, door-to-needle median time has reduced from 80 minutes down to 54. With cerebral ischaemia being a critical matter of seconds, this is a significant early finding, and along with other positive outcomes, will hopefully help push for a Telestroke rollout in other DHBs.


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1,100 delegates attending HiNZ this week. HiNZ Awards Dinner at Shed10, Auckland, sponsored by Microsoft. Pic: The Medical Startup

3) The finalists for the Sysmex Award for Health Informatics at the University of Auckland have promising ideas for mobile health applications. The winner, Daniel Surkalim, was announced tonight at the HiNZ Awards dinner. By creating visually appealing, simplistic views of patient data, his project, GRID(Graphical Relational Integrated Database) will help solve the clinician bugbear of “too much data, not enough sense” that occurs in many existing EMRs (electronic medical records). The other finalists deserve commendation for their work; Frances Toohey with Dr.Doctor for clinicians and patients to track eReferrals, and Kyle Frank’s MedScript to facilitate e-prescribing solutions for patients and doctors.

4) Tele-ophthalmology in India aims to cut waiting lists for a population short of ophthalmologists. Dr Sheila John of Chennai, India has done extensive work with diabetic retinopathy and machine learning, and inspired us with her dream to help rural villages be screened for diabetic retinopathy accurately and safely without a long waiting period for an eye specialist. Dr John quotes 60 million people in India as suffering from diabetes, with nearly 20% experiencing diabetic retinopathy, a cause of blindness if left untreated.


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Speakers from four different nations closing the Global Telehealth conference today; L-R: Global Telehealth co-chair Dr Kendall Ho of Canada; Dr Karen Day of NZ; Dr Laticha Walters, South Africa; and Dr Sheila John, India. Pic: The Medical Startup

With four events running this week, it’s impossible to catch all sessions at once. Watch the conference on demand, even after this week, with a Virtual Ticket, including one year’s worth of membership with HiNZand HIMSS Asia-Pacificamong other benefits. We thank HiNZ for providing media access to the conferences and truly enjoyed the experience.  

Interview with Dr Lloyd Nash, Co-Founder of Global Health Startup “Global Ideas”

First published September 2, 2016


Dr Lloyd Nash is a General Medicine Physician working between Australia and Vanuatu, who co-foundedGlobal Ideas, a series of conferences and events where people from diverse industries unite to learn about Global Health issues, social ventures, and career pathways. Lloyd and his friends created this as they found a severe lack of opportunities for people at various stages in their studies or professional lives to explore career options in Global Health. This weekend, their fifth Global Ideas Forum will be held in Melbourne, featuring international guest speakers and small group sessions. During the year, they also host the Design Jam and Global Ideas Labs, where people brainstorm particular issues in Global Health over three hours, using human-centred design thinking.

Lloyd has successfully brought together healthcare workers, architects, graphic designers, lawyers, NGO founders, social entrepreneurs and more into a Global Health powerhouse that energises people at all levels of education to build solutions to Global Health problems. We’d been blown away by the enthusiasm at last year’s Global Ideas Forum, and got talking to Lloyd about his journey combining traditional clinical training with building his own Global Health organisation.

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Dr Lloyd Nash. Photo: Supplied

How did Global Ideas begin?

It started around the board table at an AMA (Australian Medical Association) meeting in 2011. I was there as the chair of the College of Physicians’ Trainees’ committee. I was sitting with young, inspiring people who were passionate about global health, including Dr Rob Mitchell, Dr Ross Roberts-Thomson, and Dr Jake Parker, and we were lamenting the status of Global Health career opportunities.

The lament was, there’s a lot of passion and energy around medical students and campuses, lots of activity and initiatives, then people get into the early part of their careers, whether in healthcare or not, and get buried. Often they might come to Global Health at the end of their career, but there’s a sort of donut (where their Global Health opportunities are lacking). That was a frustration for us, realising there wasn’t a lack of enthusiasm about Global Health, more of a lack of pathways, opportunities and engagement.

Also, looking at my own career path, as I trained in Infectious Diseases for awhile, the Global Health models that were around were either, do an internship at the WHO, or via NGOs- volunteer in the field for two years, then we might give you a job as a program officer. It seemed both of those were very bureaucratic, unresponsive pathways, not fit for purpose, and hadn’t adapted to the 21st century realities of technology, using the skills and passion coming through from the next generation. Most people were told to go do a Master’s degree or camp in the jungle for five years, then come back and look for work. It seemed to be the wrong way to harness the energy and enthusiasm of younger people.

So we started Global Ideas with the Forum in 2012. Our mission is to create and connect the next generation of Global Health leaders. It’s a leadership capacity building project, from Education through to Action.

The structure was Learn, Share, Develop and Connect, as an educational and networking enterprise. We wanted people to learn about new initiatives, share their own ideas, any research they might have done, any social enterprises and other new initiatives they may have developed, and connect with a broad, diverse interdisciplinary community.

We ran three conferences, then had a strategic review and thought, what more do we need to be doing? We were doing well at engaging and inspiring younger people, but I wanted to do more knowledge and skills development, so we launched a couple of new programs- the Labs and Design Jam.

Labs is an extension of the Forum- Labs engages people on a more regular basis to dive deeper into issues over 3 hours. We have a Lead (facilitator), and intimate group discussions. It revolves around the Sustainable Development Goals framework, so connections between health and development, and advocating for the Sustainable Development agenda amongst the next generation of Global Health leaders. We wanted to have events like edutainment, so people can be, like, “I could go to the cinema tonight, or go to the Lab, and I could have more fun and learn more by going to the Lab.”

The Design Jam program extends that educational journey into Action. We partner with organisations doing Global Health work, Design organisations and other groups, and smash those together with our participants to help people become more aware and comfortable applying the tools of Human-Centred Design Thinking.

How can you motivate anyone to care about Global Health and see themselves as change-makers?

If you think about how to create change or develop leadership influence, think about people’s motivations and passions. We encourage people to reflect on their world view to influence others’ behaviour. To do this, you’ve got to learn about Global Health. You’ve got to develop skills to apply in the field, not just vertical skills, but a reproducible thought model that is creative, innovative, and collaborative, to apply to complex challenges in their own careers. That came screaming at us as Human-Centred Design and Design Thinking, and I use both terms interchangeably.

We want to have discussions that feel comfortable, usually taking the form of expert, but I really wanted to challenge the idea of expertise. The concept that you have to be an old professor who’s published a lot of papers, I didn’t think that was true. We wanted to promote the idea that younger people who’ve taken time to reflect and had experiences can be experts in their own right.

I ran a Lab in June on ethics and leadership, discussing Sustainable Development Goal 16- Peace and Justice- how you build societies that encourage dialogue and discussion around conflict.

So I was nominally a discussion lead, and brought a friend and colleague, Professor Paul Komesaroff, who’s a clinician and philosopher, who also led the discussion, but we’re not there to teach or preach. We facilitate connections and help the crowd, and reflect insights back to people. That’s the essence of good facilitation.

We’re creating pathways because, maybe, someone will meet someone working in Global Health, or an organisation that has opportunities through what is a pretty complex system.

How quickly did Global Ideas evolve to what it is today?

It was remarkably quick actually, our meeting was end of 2011, our first forum was held 2012, and now we’re at our fifth forum.

We were kind of powered by medical doctors in the beginning, mainly through my networks. The four of us, Jake, Rob, Ross and I sat and decided we needed a more diverse board, so we brought on Jenny Jamieson who is also another doctor; an accountant, and a lawyer; then we ran into a young doctor who was very passionate about Global Health, Natalie Wright, and literally over a coffee I said, “I have an idea to run a conference, will you help me?” and she was like, “Yes,” and she was effectively our CEO and forum convenor. We literally sat in a cafe on the back of an envelope and sketched out what a great forum would look like.

We brought in other people. Our first academic officer, was also a doctor, Aaron, a really bright guy who created a great experience for people that was grounded in Global Health with many career development angles. This became Global Cafes, sitting in small groups talking to people who’d worked in Global Health, and could reflect back to others about their leadership journeys, and people could ask how they could consider their own career pathways, educational opportunities, and opportunities for action. We had a Career Corner, and Family Time- threaded throughout the conference, in small groups where they stayed with each other during the conference to build intimate connections. Family Time has now become Reimagine Time, which still runs throughout the conference to address global health issues via human-centred design thinking.

How did you get the word out to designers and other professional groups?

Once you diversify your leadership team, you can diversify your management team, your content, and everything else. As the board evolved, it became more diverse, we brought on a designer, a business development person, and a human-centred design service designer. The board became radically diverse.

We always took a more upstream look at Global Health, in that we’re not here to just look at tech solutions for global health. We’re looking at drivers of ill health, particularly social and environmental determinants of ill health. Health is intimately connected with development and vice versa, and people felt it was very accessible and our events were not swamped in health, and that health touches all aspects of their lives.

Once you have content that’s engaging for these people they come along.

What’s your biggest tip for people wanting to do what you’re doing?

There’s a lot of ways to create impact. We identified five personas at Global Ideas, ranging from Grassroots advocacy to Entrepreneurial activities to Policy-making. You may fit into one or more personas. Start with what you’re passionate about, and how you can influence the world, and you’ll quickly identify with one or more of these personas. Once you’ve identified what you’re passionate about and what gets you out of bed in the morning, decide, how do I want to create influence? Do I need a bigger network? More education? And that’s partly planning, part serendipity. But you’ve got to know where you want to get to.
Don’t be intimidated by vertical pathways that are wound up with social status. If you want to change the world, work out how you want to change it, and make it happen.

The Global Ideas Forum 2016 kicks off tonight in Melbourne. Tickets are still available, including day and student passes, here