A new future for health education

15 July 2016

The Wakil gift is the largest ever given to the University. It will be used to help create a unique health precinct which will bring the various health disciplines together into a multidisciplinary teaching and research hub.

Imagine a teaching environment that integrates all the health disciplines – nursing, medicine, allied health, dentistry and pharmacy – so the education on offer is underpinned by the latest multidisciplinary research.

The farsighted vision of Susan and Isaac Wakil is bringing this concept to life, with the aim of transforming healthcare education in Australia.

Through their family Foundation, the Wakils have committed an unprecedented $35 million to establish a state of the art facility that will be part of a unique health precinct at the University. This precinct will bring together the various health disciplines to form a multidisciplinary teaching and research hub.

Artist's impression of the health education hub that the Wakil Gift will help make possible.

“Organising Sydney health education and research in this way will enable many more opportunities for learning as teams, and for exploring ways to improve health by taking a broader perspective on health research,” the Dean of the Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery (Sydney Nursing School), Professor Donna Waters (MPHlth ’97 PhD(Medicine) ’07), says.

“Our people are at the forefront of health research. We can add value by working together to embed this research in clinical service delivery and education.”

The Wakils’ new gift is in addition to another gift they made in support of nursing students. In 2015, the Wakils gave $10.8 million to Sydney Nursing School to recognise the invaluable work of nurses in the frontline of healthcare. This gift established 12 annual scholarships in perpetuity, to assist undergraduate and postgraduate nursing students with study, tuition and accommodation.

Together, these gifts provide a singular opportunity for the University to drive excellence in clinical services and holistic care wherever its health graduates go to work.

“We were inspired by the radical and innovative approach the University of Sydney is taking to address immediate and future healthcare challenges,’’ Mr Wakil says. “Susan and I are pleased to be able to make this project a reality.”

Preliminary ideas for the hub precinct.

The philosophy behind co-location, where University students, researchers, clinical and education staff work closely together under the one roof exchanging knowledge and ideas, is mirrored in contemporary thinking about health.

“At the moment we don’t operate as an integrated health system - our services are fragmented,” explains the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor Kathryn Refshauge (DipManipPhysio ’84MHlthSc(Sports&ManipPhty)Hons ’75).

“Our future services will be well-linked with access to multidisciplinary teams, the infrastructure will match the needs of the community and people will have control of their own health.”

The building is just the beginning. It will be the catalyst for new ways of thinking, collaborating and teaching. The changed mind set will see health professionals moving away from their isolated silos to become part of a team working to improve outcomes - a team that involves the patients and their families.

This model promises a future of more affordable and equitable healthcare and real patient choice. It’s a future worth imagining, and thanks to the shared vision of the Wakils and the health educators and researchers at the University of Sydney, it’s closer than you think.

Written by Anna Herbert

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