Advancing action on endometriosis

20 July 2020

For FRANZCOG Associate Professor Alan Lam the soon-to-be launched Endometriosis eLearning Module and Awareness Tool is very rewarding.

The Endometriosis Online Learning Project Committee, of which he is the Chair, has developed the tool for medical practitioners, including RANZCOG Fellows and Trainees, to help them learn to diagnose faster and manage symptoms more effectively for better patient outcomes.

“It is a great effort in which health professionals from the frontline specialities, ranging from nurses, general practitioners, gynaecologists and obstetricians, fertility specialists, pain specialists, and emergency physicians – who are members of this committee – have collaborated,” Alan says.

“It has been a very rewarding experience, and what has been developed is a beneficial learning module for all the health professionals.

“We’ve been able to develop a very structed online learning module that meets the myriad of clinical presentations that women can present, whether that is through the general practitioners, the emergency department, the fertility specialist, or the gynaecologist; that is the biggest strength of this leaning module.”

Developing the Endometriosis eLearning Module and Awareness Tool was one of the tasks of the Committee. The other is the ongoing work on Raising Awareness Tool for Endometriosis (RATE), a tool to help the public to be able to become aware that they may have symptoms related to endometriosis so that they can then seek help from their appropriate health professionals. The tool will be launched soon.

The dual task forms part of the National Action Plan on Endometriosis launched by Health Minister Greg Hunt in 2018. The Action Plan provides a platform for improving the awareness, understanding, treatment of, and research into, endometriosis and associated chronic pelvic pain in Australia. The Action Plan is a high-level document that contains three priority areas that identify actions that will deliver a multipronged approach to endometriosis in Australia. These three priority areas are awareness and education, clinical management and care, and research.

Law or medicine

Alan, a gynaecologist, is an expert in endoscopic treatment of complex endometriosis, pelvic floor prolapse, hysterectomy and myomectomy.

He is a former President of the Australasian Gynaecological Endoscopy and Surgical Society, and has served on the boards of the American Association of Gynecological Laparoscopists, the World Endometriosis Society and the International Society Gynecological Endoscopy.

Though all of this could have been different, as Alan wrestled with the decision whether to study law or medicine after finishing high school. “But it didn’t take me long to recognise that while the two professions appealed to me from the point of person-to-person contact and engagement, the aspect that medicine offers –  that is, finding ways to improve the health and wellbeing of an individual in need – was very enticing,” Alan says.

A focus on endometriosis

Last year, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released figures outlining the prevalence of endometriosis in Australia and how many women end up in hospital as a result.

The AIHW report confirmed what many have researched, written and talked openly about: the chronic pain, the infertility and the mental health challenges women with this condition face. 

It is data like this and the stories of women that drives Alan. “There is a desire to see whether we can help women have the condition diagnosed earlier so that they can – for young women, in particular –  avoid being at risk of developing chronic pain for being exposed to this condition for so long and receiving treatments which may be inadequate or under recognised,” he says. “That has been the major reason I have been motivated to become involved in projects such as the Endometriosis Online Learning Project Committee,” he says.

Away from medicine

For downtime, Alan loves nothing more than a game of tennis or a round of golf.

But it is his love for Latin and ballroom dancing that excites him the most. “It is something that has been very good for my wife and me,” Alan says. “She said one day ‘why don’t we do what we thought we could have done when they kids were young but we didn’t have time’. Last year we said ‘yes, let’s do it’, and it has taken off from there. It is fantastic.”



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