Inspired, grateful, and a little star-struck.

By October 1, 2017Ethics

I found out that I had been awarded a Churchill Fellowship while I was on holidays in Japan. My husband and I were on a train from Tokyo to Yamanashi (one of Japan’s wine regions) when I checked my email on my phone and saw the congratulatory email from the Churchill Trust. I had to suppress a cheer (etiquette on Japanese trains not really allowing for a victory dance) and be content with poking my husband in the ribs, carving my face in half with my smile, and indulging in some attenuated fist pumps.

The Churchill Trust is an Australian trust that was established in 1965 to honour and perpetuate the memory of Sir Winston Churchill. Apparently, Sir Winston Churchill preferred the idea of a travelling scholarships scheme as his memorial, rather than having a fancy statue built. After Churchill’s death, countries around the world set up trusts in honour of him. In Australia, a huge public appeal was launched and had a spectacular response, in particular from a doorknock appeal run by the Returned Services League. You can read more about the history of the Trust here.

What this means is that since 1966, the Churchill Trust has awarded over 4100 Australians with Fellowships. To be awarded a Churchill Fellowship, people with particular expertise propose a project through which they will develop this expertise, and return to contribute to Australian society. If awarded, the Churchill Trust funds their travel and expenses for up to 8 weeks so that the Fellow can pursue their project. One of the many things I love about the Churchill Fellowships is that they are open to people from all walks of life. My cohort from 2016 included an optometrist, a panel beater, a sound recording artist, a radiation scientist and a chef to name just a few. Even before setting out on my Fellowship, meeting this group of people made my world bigger. I’m fascinated by all their projects and can’t wait to see the outcomes of their fellowships.

The one-liner to describe my project is: To enrich and inform development of paediatric clinical ethics services in Australia. Clinical Ethics Services (CES) are a funny thing. Ethics is relevant to all healthcare professionals in all specialties and ethical, or moral, dilemmas happen everywhere in healthcare. CES are increasingly common in hospitals and exist to give advice or help clinical staff to deal with these difficult moral problems.  However, no one really knows what the best way to run CES is (there are probably many), we haven’t decided who should be allowed to call themselves a clinical ethicist, and we don’t know exactly how to measure whether a service is good quality or not. You can read more about CES in general, and in paediatric hospitals in particular, in a recent study done by our centre in Brisbane and published in BMJ Open Paediatrics.

During my Churchill Fellowship, I will visit several CES around the world to see how they function and how they think about and measure their outcomes. I am particularly interested in the best ways to teach robust moral reasoning to those working in CES, and so I am also visiting several universities with excellence in teaching ethics. Through my work in both clinical ethics and clinical medicine in Australia I am increasingly aware of the need to foster openness and compassion in healthcare workers. Being able to make good ethical decisions is uniquely dependent on understanding the narratives of all involved. There is some literature describing that engagement with the arts is one way to foster these skills, and so another thread running through my project is to explore these techniques.

So, I’m off – to Europe, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States! I’m feeling grateful, inspired, and a little star struck by all the wonderful people I will have the opportunity to meet and learn from.

I’ll be chronicling my Churchill Fellowship adventure on this blog and will also be active on my Facebook page and Twitter @DrMJansen. Follow me if you’d like the updates!


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