Health and Medical Education Story
Rocketship is about communities
When Rocketship’s co-founder, Dr Lachlan McIver first visited Vanuatu in 2008, he was taken in by the community of Bene village, on the east coast of Espiritu Santo island in northern Vanuatu, who subsequently became part of his extended family.
In the years that followed, while living in Fiji and Vanuatu and working in over a dozen other Pacific island countries on behalf of the World Health Organisation, Lachlan realised that these spectacular islands, home to countless communities of proud, generous, open-hearted people, had health systems that struggled to provide care to those communities, particularly in rural areas and outer islands. Lachlan called upon his colleagues in the rural medical community in Australia to support their colleagues and peers in the Pacific, and thus Rocketship was born.
Rocketship’s co-founders included leaders in rural generalist medicine and experts in health professional education in Australia – Dr David Campbell, former president of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine; Dr Pat Giddings, CEO of the Remote Vocational Training Scheme; Dr Sam Jones, Director of Primary Health Care in the Torres Strait; Dr Steve Kuartei, former Minister of Health from the Pacific island nation of Palau; and Bonnie Ward, an experienced clinical nurse educator from Melbourne.
Building on its early work in supporting the establishment of Vanuatu’s medical internship training programme, Rocketship was asked to assist with the design and delivery of Timor-Leste’s inaugural Family Medicine training programme. That, in turn, led to Rocketship’s integral role in establishing the first-ever regional Family Medicine programme in the Pacific, in collaboration with Fiji and Tonga.
Throughout this journey, Rocketship has deployed a number of volunteer doctors and nurses to support this work in communities from the urban density of Dili to the jungle of Santo and the ‘Fire Island’ of Tanna. In doing so, the Rocketship community itself has grown, with previous volunteers joining the Board of Directors and bringing unparalleled experience in the process, like Dr Dan Manahan, Executive Director of Medical Services in the Darling Downs in central Queensland.
Rocketship works in partnership with the government health service in every country where our support is requested. We believe that it is primarily through building the capacity of our fellow health professionals that our vision of ‘Health communities across the Pacific’ can be achieved.
- Visit Fiji, at invitation of Fiji National University, to evaluate potential for postgraduate training in family medicine
- Visit Vanuatu, at invitation of Ministry of Health, to assist with emergency support following Cyclone Pam
- Visit Timor-Leste, at invitation of Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and Ministry of Health, to evaluate potential for postgraduate training in family medicine
- Formal collaboration on the Family Medicine Program in Timor-Leste commenced Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and Ministry of Health
- Scale-up of Family Medicine Program in Timor-Leste with establishment of Trainer Team system and first cohort of Rocketship volunteers (Rocketeers)
- Signed Memorandum of Understanding with Vanuatu Ministry of Health Volunteer Rocketeers (doctors and nurses) sent to areas of Vanuatu with extreme workforce shortage
- Rocketship invited to examine the Timor-Leste Family Medicine Program
- Delegation sent to Tonga, at request of Kingdom of Tonga, to evaluate potential for postgraduate training in family medicine
- Partnership established between Rocketship and Fiji National University on curriculum design and remote delivery of diploma and masters of Family Medicine program
- Signed Memorandum of Understanding with Tonga Ministry of Health
- Rocketship again invited to examine the Timor-Leste Family Medicine Program
Signed Memorandum of Understanding with Fiji National University for one year
First cohort of four Tongan doctors commence the inaugural Fiji National University ‘Diploma of Family Medicine’ supported by Rocketship Trainer Team
Visit Tonga for in-practice training and assessment
Rocketship hosts delegation of Pacific Health Ministers on sidelines of World Health Assembly (Geneva, Switzerland)
Partnership established with Aspen Medical to strengthen rural workforce support in Vanuatu
Scale-up of Rocketeer presence in Vanuatu (Vila Central Hospital + Northern Provincial Hospital)
Rocketship awarded contract by AVI to conduct feasibility study of Postgraduate Diploma of Rural Medicine program in Solomon Islands
First cohort of Tongan Diploma of Family Medicine graduates successfully complete their training
- Rocketship supported the inaugural Fiji National University ‘Masters of Family Medicine’ cohort and second cohort of diploma students
- Signed Memorandum of Understanding with Rural Doctors Association of Australia
- Extension of Memorandum of Understanding with Fiji National University for further five years
- Publication of paper Rocketship and the Rural Health Workforce Revolution in the Pacific: Growing Skilled Medical Generalists across the ‘Blue Continent’ (McIver, Manahan, Jones & ‘Ulufonua) in Frontiers in Public Health journal
- Renewal of Memorandum of Understanding with Vanuatu Ministry of Health
- Delegation sent to Vanuatu, at invitation of Ministry of Health, to develop plan to scale-up rural medical workforce training and support
- First cohort of two Vanuatu doctors commence the Fiji National University ‘Diploma of Family Medicine’ supported by Rocketship Trainer Team
- Tonga Family Medicine program continues
Presentations & Conferences
Rocketship have presented our work to the following forums:
- National Rural Health Conference (Darwin, Australia)
- World Rural Health Conference (Dubrovnik, Croatia)
- World Summit on Rural Generalist Medicine (Montreal, Canada)
- World Rural Generalist Research Symposium (Tromsø, Norway)
- World Summit on Rural Generalist Medicine (Cairns, Australia)
- Tonga Medical Association 75 th anniversary Conference (Nuku’alofa)
- Attend Pacific Health Ministers’ Meeting (Rarotonga, Cook Islands; Tahiti, French Polynesia; Suva, Fiji)
- Rural Medicine Australia Conference (Canberra, Australia)