Meet our ASM speakers: Dr Catriona Melville

A specialist in sexual and reproductive health based in Brisbane, Doctor Catriona Melville discusses her career and her participation in RANZCOG’s 2022 Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM).

RANZCOG

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Catriona Melville says she “absolutely fell in love” with obstetrics when she first studied it towards the end of medical training in Glasgow, Scotland, and chose to specialise in O&G soon after completing medical school. After 10 years as a consultant with the UK’s National Health Service, she relocated to Brisbane in 2016. Along the way, she sub-specialised in sexual & reproductive health (SRH), and today is Deputy Chair of RANZCOG’s SRH Special Interest Group.

“O&G’s got a great mix of medicine and surgery,” she explains. “But when I became more advanced in my training and gained experience of different areas of gynaecology, I discovered SRH. It’s such a marginalised area, and an incredibly rewarding field of practice.”
Catriona’s work today spans a mix of clinical and strategic leadership roles. However, she enjoys the clinical work most, particularly given the stigmatised nature of healthcare SRH.

“People have often been passed from pillar to post before they come to see me. They can be quite vulnerable, in terms of socio-economic deprivation or other factors like family violence. Helping people in those challenging situations is really rewarding. And just seeing somebody’s face change when they realise they’re sitting in front of a clinician who’s not going to judge them – who’s actually going to help them.”

Catriona believes the challenges she faces in her work are the same as across many areas of medical practice: “Managing expectations, in an ever-changing healthcare climate… that’s a challenge. Things are never static, and you have to keep up with the expectations of patients, policymakers and the medical system itself. And with any career in medicine, harmonising your work and life is definitely a challenge.”

At the RANZCOG ASM, Catriona will join a panel discussion on abortion in the public sector, as well as presenting her abstract. The abstract examines recent international developments, accelerated amid the COVID-19 pandemic, around the demedicalisation of abortion care – such as whether women should have a routine ultrasound prior to a medical abortion.

“My research was looking at this in the Australian context,” Catriona says. “Looking at whether it would be safe to provide something like a no-ultrasound medical abortion for carefully selected women in the Australian setting. To hear what the answer is you’ll need to listen to the abstract presentation!”

The panel discussion is particularly topical following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs Wade. As the ramifications continue to unfold in the US, the decision has highlighted weaknesses of the system in Australia.

“I think we’ve realised access to abortion has not kept up with legislative change. Even though abortion is legal in every state and territory now, it’s not freely accessible everywhere, and certainly not in the public system. There are many locations, particularly in regional and rural areas, where women still can’t access abortion easily if at all.

“The Roe vs Wade decision has certainly opened people’s eyes to the situation in Australia. It’s reminded us we absolutely cannot rest on our laurels. It’s made it even more critical that we advocate not just to maintain our current access to reproductive health, but actually to improve access.”

Catriona is looking forward to this year’s ASM, the first to be held in person for three years, but also her first as a Fellow of RANZCOG.

“I’m looking forward to the social aspect, meeting colleagues, but also listening to experts from near and far talk about clinical topics,” she says. “I’ve also noticed some really interesting non-clinical content – for example, gender equity, social media and medicine, and some wellbeing sessions.

“It’s going to be amazing for people to get face to face again. Everybody’s had a tough few years with COVID, and the networking and peer support is absolutely critical, particularly in a specialty like O&G. I hope lots of people have the opportunity to attend. The Gold Coast is awesome, and it should be warm and sunny in October.”

The 2022 RANZCOG Annual Scientific Meeting will be held as a hybrid conference at the Gold Coast Convention Centre from 10-12 October 2022. Dr Catriona Melville will be part of a panel discussion on ‘Abortion in the Public Sector’ at 11.50am on 10 October.

www.ranzcogasm.com.au

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