Professor Paul Fitzgerald's reflections on the team's anniversary

I had little idea of what I was getting myself in for when I arrived at Dandenong Hospital in early 1994 as a first year Psychiatry
Registrar. My first impression of psychiatrywas that everybody arrived really late for work as I was used to very different working conditions in general medicine and surgery. I had a variety of interesting experiences learning clinical psychiatry at Dandenong Hospital, many very good (but not all!). However, Jayashri’s enthusiasm for research and her commitment to embedding this into the clinical work that everybody was doing at the time attracted me fairly early on.

It was during a clinical placement with the CAT Team, that I first became engaged in doing real research. I was completing rating scales in the car as we drove around the outer suburbs of Melbourne, from Langwarrin to Cranbourne to Packenham and back to Dandenong, fitting in doing research paperwork between seeing patients on multiple home visits on these road trips. Jayashri constantly encouraged any form of research activity, but was particularly interested in the work with early psychosis patients given her background prior to coming to Dandenong Hospital. We did a valuable initial study, which I think helped convince some clinicians that early psychosis patients could be managed out of hospital, but it also got me hooked on the idea of research.

In 1998, I went to Toronto for a year to round out my training: to see how other clinical services worked, but also to get some further exposure to research training. When I came back to Dandenong Hospital, Jayashri allowed me to develop a position where I could integrate some research activity with clinical practice, not something that was typically very common at that time. Over the next three or four years, we worked very hard to establish a number of research programs, get equipment funding and obtain competitive grants. The environment in those days was always highly supportive and encouraging and gave me the scope to really take on any research studies that I was interested in and sufficiently motivated to set up and conduct. It was also fun: work was interrupted occasionally by spontaneous cricket matches in the corridor and meetings held in the salubrious setting of the cafe in the Dandenong Plaza.

Moving to the Alfred was a return home for me having completed all of my medical student training and early medical years there. It was also exciting as it opened up a range of broader research possibilities. Fortunately, as a centre and as individuals, we have been able to make the most of moving to a larger tertiary environment dramatically expanding the size of the research centre and the activities we been able to undertake. There have been many fantastic individuals working in and associated with MAPrc over the years. Many have come and gone, but fortunately a number such as Dr Kate Hoy and Dr Sacha Filia have stuck with us in a way that has been really gratifying. The one consistent factor has been the presence of Jayashri and Anthony. We have occasionally observed how our strengths and weaknesses complement each other well: we don’t quite finish each other’s sentences, but together we manage to help each other finish what we need to get done! Hopefully this will continue for many more years to come.

 MAPrc Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Level 4, 607 St Kilda Road, Melbourne 3004

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