Greg Urwin Recipient Reports on Week One at JCU

By Hillary Toloka, 10 June 2016

The opportunity to do my attachment with WHOCC Nursing & Midwifery Education & Research Capacity Building, at James Cook University (JCU) came directly from the assistance from the Pacific Leadership Program, Greg Urwin Award.

Atoifi Adventist Hospital has identified a need to help develop my capacity as a newly appointed Research Nurse, to help inform hospital administrators and community leaders with evidence-based information in order for sound decisions to be made.

As a nurse I have gained experience over the years in both in clinical and community settings and I feel increasing my capacity and skills in research is an important step forward.

Undertaking my placement at JCU provides me with the opportunity to see a bigger picture and how research is a part of daily operations and decision making. Importantly I can learn from this experience and take those learnings home to and share with colleagues and clinic nurses in the Eastern Region and the surrounding communities.

My placement began on the 30th May 2016 under the Leadership of Associate Professor Caryn West, Ms. Andrea Grimes and Dr David MacLaren, who supervise and coordinate my daily work activities.

My placement will be in two parts, with the first part from 30th May 2016 to June 24th 2016. I will work at JCU and then return to Atoifi Hospital to work on an integrated project with the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine for a month. I will then return to JCU to complete the last part of my three month placement.

During this first week I have had a wonderful opportunity to spend time with Vanessa Sparke, who is a nursing academic, infection control specialist and subject coordinator. Vanessa is undertaking her PhD based at Atoifi and has worked with us there. Useful information were shared and stronger academic ties built. We look forward to welcoming Vanessa back to help support the Atoifi Infection Control Department.

Another opportunity not to be missed was with Sally White. Sally is an academic in nursing & midwifery and teaches Leadership. We had a wonderful opportunity to share and discuss different leadership styles which would be very applicable to Atoifi Hospital Nursing Leaders. For me this was a great opportunity to learn.

I also had wonderful first time opportunity to join the JCU Nursing Curriculum teleconferencing meeting. At present a new nursing curriculum is being designed that will include overseas clinical placement. It has been wonderful taking part in these activities and to have this opportunity to learn.

I also joined a CQUniversity team for two day-long meetings about a participatory research project to enhance resilience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students.

I would like to thank Associate Professor Caryn West and Dr Michelle Redman-MacLaren for making these opportunities possible.

Photo (L-R): Vanessa Sparke, Sally White, Karen Yates, Hillary Toloka, Susanne Brookes and Scott Trueman, JCU Nursing

Rick Speare Memorial Fund to assist health research in Solomon Islands

The Rick Speare Memorial Fund has been established following the tragic death of Emeritus Professor Richard (Rick) Speare AM, Founder and Leader of the Atoifi Health Research Group.

Professor Speare's family requests that, instead of purchasing flowers, people make a donation to a special fund to ensure Rick’s work with the Atoifi Health Research Group in Solomon Islands is continued.

The Memorial Fund will continue to receive donations on an ongoing basis, with all donations over $2 fully tax-deductible.

If you wish to donate, please visit the James Cook University website:

For more information, please email Dr David MacLaren:

Tragic passing of our Leader

On Sunday 5 June, 2016 Emeritus Professor Rick Speare, our Group Leader and dear friend, was tragically killed in a car accident.

Rick was a man of great humanity, wisdom and wit. Across his extensive professional and personal endeavors, his commitment was to make the world a better place. People across the globe will attest to his immense kindness, genuine humility and great intellect. Rick has been influential in so many of our lives.

One of Rick’s great passions was to understand and improve the health of people, and animals, in the Pacific. For almost a decade, Rick has worked to establish and support the Atoifi Health Research Group in Solomon Islands. We will be forever grateful for the vision, leadership and encouragement Rick has shown each of us.

To donate to the Rick Speare Memorial Fund, that will continue the research capacity strengthening work in Solomon Islands, please visit:

Infection Control in action

By Vanessa Sparke, Lecturer and PhD Candidate, James Cook University

The opportunity to become involved with Atoifi Adventist Hospital and the research group came indirectly through the WHO Collaborating Centre for Nursing & Midwifery Education & Research Capacity Building Centre (WHOCC) at James Cook University (JCU). The Centre’s Director, Associate Professor Dr Caryn West was in a conversation with Dr David MacLaren about the need to fill a gap which had been self-identified by AAH as needing to strengthen and improve infection control (IC) processes. Caryn’s response to David was, “Have I got the person for you!”

As a nurse, infection prevention and control has become a bit of a passion for me. I ‘cut my teeth’ (so to speak) as an Infection Control Nurse at a large hospital in Melbourne, while studying a Masters of Tropical Health and Medicine at JCU. After five years at a large city hospital, I moved to the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia, where I was challenged with maintaining and improving IC practices, processes and plans across the regions small hospitals and remote primary health centres. It was a challenge that I loved, understood and was good at!

While moving to JCU (Cairns) and out of the healthcare world into academia was somewhat of a ‘culture shock’, the ability to maintain my interest and passion for IC continued with the creation of the Graduate Certificate of Infection Control (which I coordinate). When I was asked by Caryn if I would I be interested in working with Atoifi Hospital, without any hesitation I said yes! What’s more, I said I would even do a PhD around this (it’s only taken me five years to say yes to a PhD).

The week in Atoifi Hospital exceeded my expectations. Not only was I amongst a group of people (fellow researchers from Australia) who were passionate about the public health of the people, and with whom I could talk the same language, but I was among the most welcoming and accepting community at Atoifi Hospital. The Hospital was surprisingly larger than I anticipated and catered for not only medical requirements but surgical as well. A theatre, emergency room, outpatients area and wards (including maternity) meant that the hospital had the capacity for about 60 inpatients, and the ability to explore, speak to staff and audit infection control processes throughout the week. I was made to feel so welcome that I struggled with my emotions when it was time to leave.

The staff at AAH have a big job ahead of them. It is a hospital setting with an unreliable supply of consumable resources, and a built environment that doesn’t support even some of the most basic IC practices. This means it will take some time to raise the IC standards and identify alternative ways of approaching the IC challenges. The IC team (pictured) at Atoifi Hospital know their work much better than I do, and they know what is ‘doable’ - the solutions need to come from what they know they can do. Together we will reach their goal of improved IC practices. With some lateral thinking and local ingenuity anything is achievable!

Thank you to Rowena Asugeni, Director of Nursing, for inviting me to partner with Atoifi Hospital, and to all the staff for being my source of information and inspiration. This is just the beginning.

Photos: (i) Newly formed IC team,Atoifi Hospital (L-R) Dr Jason Diau, Kenny Moutoa, Rowena Asugeni, Lyndelle Asugeni ; (ii) Vanessa saying goodbye