College vows to do better after photo gaffe

2 minute read

RACGP bosses have reiterated a commitment to inclusivity after captioning a trio of experienced non-Caucasian GPs as ‘new fellows’.

RACGP CEO Paul Wappett and president Dr Nicole Higgins have apologised for an error that appeared in last week’s Friday Fax president’s update email that sparked accusations of racism from some members.

One section of the update email contained photos from the most recent Queensland fellowship ceremony. While all photos containing Caucasian doctors had a caption listing their name, a group shot of Dr Higgins with Dr Srishti Dutta, Dr Prasad Kumar and Dr Prakash Pattnaik had a caption simply listing the three doctors as “new fellows”.

Adding an extra layer to the fact that the doctors were not individually named is the fact that they are not, as stated, new fellows.  

AHPRA records show that Dr Dutta achieved RACGP fellowship in 2015 and that Dr Pattnaik fellowed in 2021. Dr Kumar’s practice profile lists him as having started his GP fellowship in 2018 and sitting on the college’s Doctors-in-Training council.

Multiple members from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds allegedly contacted the college to say that the mislabelling of the photo “added to their experience of bias in their interactions with the college”.

Mr Wappett said he was “humbled” by the experience and emphasised that, while the mislabelling was by no means an intentional act, he would endeavour to do better.

“As the CEO of the RACGP, I am responsible for all operational matters,” Mr Wappett told members in an email yesterday.

“The buck stops with me.

“I would therefore like to offer my sincerest apologies to Dr Srishti Dutta, Dr Prasad Kumar and Dr Prakash Pattnaik, as well as to all members for whom this has added to their experience of racial bias in the college.”

From left to right: Dr Nicole Higgins, Dr Srishti Dutta, Dr Prasad Kumar and Dr Prakash Pattnaik. Source: RACGP

Dr Higgins said that the situation had presented the “opportunity to make change” and acknowledged the “moral injury and hurt” experienced by her peers on a daily basis.

Both Dr Higgins and Mr Wappett said they intended to bring the matter to the college board and request that it seek independent advice on how to better support the RACGP’s culturally diverse members.

There will also be new questions on the next member census looking at the experiences of doctors of colour.

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