Top of the class: Professor Debra Nestel receives Queen’s Birthday honour for medical simulation education

June 18, 2021 BY

Professor Debra Nestel holds several professorships, including at The University of Melbourne. Photo: THE UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE

AN INTERNATIONAL expert in medical simulation now living in Barwon Heads has been recognised with the highest award in the Geelong region in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Professor Debra Nestel was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to medical education through simulated teaching methods.

“It’s really lovely receiving acknowledgement of the broader field, because healthcare simulation has really only had a resurgence in the past 20 years, and it helps position it as something legitimate and important,” she said.

“One of my colleagues in South Australia is very interested in the history, and he describes the second half of the 20th century as being the Dark Ages for medical simulation, where it just went off the radar completely.

“Now, it’s no longer an outlier method in education practice for healthcare professionals, it’s become mainstream, and I’ve been really fortunate to have come into it at the start of my career.”

Her interest in medical simulation began at the University of Hong Kong, where she gained her PhD; and continued at the Imperial College London, where she has been an honorary professor in the Department of Surgery and Cancer since 2007, and then Australia.

Professor Nestel also holds professorships at Monash University and The University of Melbourne (both since 2016), as well as several other positions, and has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed papers.

She said improvements in technology and special effects had led to significant progress in her field.

“I think the movie industry has demonstrated to everyone that you can simulate pretty well anything, so we’ve been able to advance that concept of rehearsing simulation with no real patients before you actually go and do whatever task it is as a clinician in a real clinical setting.”

There were also several Medals in the Order of Australia (OAM) awarded to Bellarine residents on Queen’s Birthday this year. They include:

  • Newcomb’s Pete Johnson, for service to veterans, including with the HMAS Perth Association’s Victorian Branch and the Ex-Prisoners of War and Relatives Association Victoria
  • Wallington’s Donna Rae-Szalinski, for service to cycling, including as a former coach of the Australian Junior Cycling Team and a cycling coach educator for 15 years
  • Drysdale’s Jeffrey Stewart, for service to the community of Drysdale, including being a member of the Drysdale CFA since 1987
  • Point Lonsdale’s Allan Joyce, for service to surf lifesaving and the community, including being a member of the Point Lonsdale SLSC since 1966
  • Ocean Grove’s Philip Emery, for service to the community of Greater Geelong, including with the Ocean Grove Harriers and the Barwon Coast Committee of Management
  • Professor Felice Jacka, for service to nutritional psychiatry research
  • Ocean Grove’s Alistair McCooke, for service to surf lifesaving, including at Ocean Grove and Coolangatta
  • Clinical Professor Peter Gates of Barwon Heads, for service to neurology, including at Barwon Health, Deakin University and The University of Melbourne
  • Douglas Whan of Barwon Heads, for service to the community through the Uniting Church, including at Ocean Grove-Barwon Heads, Rowville, and the Presbytery of Port Phillip West.

Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia. If you know someone worthy, nominate them now at the Governor-General of Australia’s website.