General Practice

The Discipline of General Practice supports teaching, research, clinical practice and the development of better prevention and public health policies. It was established in 1995, and is part of the Adelaide Medical School.

General Practice

General practice is a central pillar of the Australian health care system, and the Discipline of General Practice plays an important role in training doctors of the future.

The Discipline has primary responsibility for urban community placements in years four to six of the Bachelor of Medical Studies/Doctor of Medicine program, and collaborates with the Adelaide Rural Clinical School in its delivery of clinical training in rural general practices during fifth and sixth year. Our teaching staff also deliver key lectures in years one to six of the Bachelor of Medical Studies/Doctor of Medicine program. Members of the Discipline also contribute to postgraduate training, as they regularly supervise academic GP registrars as part of their Fellowship training, as well as Honours, Masters and PhD students.

In addition to teaching, we work to improve the evidence base for what 33,000 general practitioners (GPs) do in Australia every day—deliver high-quality, up-to-date care to all Australians. We aim to:

  • provide excellent undergraduate and postgraduate education for medical students and practising health professionals in the community
  • undertake, support, and publish research conducted in general practice and primary care environments, aimed at improving health outcomes for patients
  • foster and develop a team of highly-skilled professionals who value excellence
  • improve other areas of medical education by integrating the core principles and values of general practice into the broader medical education curriculum
  • foster the provision of excellent primary care to the community
  • promote inclusiveness and diversity in the delivery of health care and education
  • advocate for general practice within the health care system
  • develop collaborations and partnerships within the University of Adelaide, the broader community, interstate and overseas academic and health organisations.

Wide-ranging research

Our teaching and research staff have extensive experience in developing and conducting clinical trials, cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, and using mixed methods approaches (including qualitative methods) to inform health policy. They routinely recruit patients, practices, and health practitioners for long-term studies, and collaborate with leading interstate and international universities.

The discipline also leads Australian research into investigating population health trends and outcomes through large datasets. We have consistently attracted significant National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and other grant funding, as lead or co-investigators.

Specific areas of research include:

  • Examining definitively, for the first time, the use of low-dose aspirin as a primary prevention medication in those aged 70 and over. Known as the ASPREE study, and funded by the NHMRCCSIRO  and National Institute of Health  (USA), Discipline researchers are conducting a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with over 12,000 participants to determine whether low-dose aspirin prolongs life, or life free of dementia, or reduces the development of physical disability in the healthy elderly. Secondary objectives also relate to the effects of low-dose aspirin on cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, cancer, physical disability and major bleeding episodes. The landmark trial was finished in December 2017, but participants are being followed to ascertain cancer endpoints, cardiovascular events and other outcomes such as quality of life. Contact: Professor Nigel Stocks.
  • Influenza and infectious disease surveillance in Australia. The Australian Sentinel Practices Research Network (ASPREN) is a sentinel network of over 300 general practitioners and nurse practitioners, funded by the Commonwealth’s Department of Health, to undertake surveillance of Influenza, COVID-19, and other infectious diseases surveillance Australia-wide. ASPREN data provides vaccine effectiveness estimates to the Federal Government and the World Health Organisation. As well as core surveillance activities, ASPREN is funded to run side projects. Past projects have included a trial of antimicrobial resistance surveillance through General Practice and testing an in-home Point Of Care Test for influenza. Currently ASPREN are running a project exploring the utility of self-testing for respiratory illness during a pandemic. Contact: Professor to POCT and self-testing for respiratory illness. Contact: Professor Nigel Stocks.
  • Assessing cardiovascular risk and preventive strategies in Australian general practices. These studies use data from NPS MedicineInsight, a database that includes electronic medical records from over 600 participating general practices across Australia, with over 2000 GPs, representing more than three million patients of all ages. Contact: Professor Nigel Stocks and A/Prof David Gonzalez-Chica.
  • Estimating influenza and pneumococcal vaccination coverage and investigating the epidemiology of influenza-like illness (ILI) in general practice along with the management of ILI with antivirals and antibiotics, using data from MedicineInsightContact: Dr Carla Bernardo.
  • Exploring the management of diabetes to improve middle-term and long-term outcomes: findings from MedicineInsight in Australia from 2011 to 2018. Contact: A/Prof David Gonzalez-Chica and Dr Carla Bernardo.
  • General Practice management of physical and psychological trauma resulting from road traffic accidents, 2011-2018. Contact: Dr Carla Bernardo.
  • Trends, long-term use, and factors associated with the prescription of benzodiazepines and z-drugs in general practice. Contact: Dr Mumtaz Begum.
  • Improving the quality of preventive and other care in general practice via targeted, personalised and automated pre-consultation education, information and advice to patients. Discipline researchers are working with the GP author of the Doctors’ Control Panel  software to develop and pilot unique strategies that present relevant information and advice to patients at a time when they can act on it immediately with minimum effort or cost. Contact: Dr Oliver Frank.
  • Increasing the vaccination against influenza and pneumococcal infection in patients with immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMID) using patient and general practitioner reminders through the Doctors’ Control Panel  software. Contact: A/Prof David Gonzalez-Chica.
  • Using qualitative research methodologies to gain in-depth understandings of general practitioners’ current practice, knowledge, and level of interest in managing sleep disorders in primary care with the aim of designing and evaluating new models of care for insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea in primary care settings. ContactDr Elizabeth Hoon.
  • Incorporating patient perspectives into the development of internationally validated Patient Reported Experience /Outcome Measures (PREMs and PROMs) which aim to enhance clinical care for people living with rheumatological conditions.  ContactDr Elizabeth Hoon.
  • Evaluating the use of quality-of-life as a subjective indicator of health status change, and a prognostic factor of complications, among patients with cardiovascular disease in Australian general practice. Contact: A/Prof David Gonzalez-Chica.

Associated with four Centres of Research Excellence

The Discipline of General Practice is, or has been, a member of the following Centres of Research Excellence (CRE), through which it collaborates in numerous projects including:

Bequests and fellowships

The Discipline has gratefully received several generous bequests, and has, using its own funds, established a Discipline of General Practice Research Fund. The fund supports community-based research in areas related to general practice. In addition, two  research fellowships have been established.

JH and JD Gunn Research Fellowship

The Discipline of General Practice and the Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences secured, in 2003, $1.5 million permanent funding to establish a research fellowship to continue the work of the Gunn Research Foundation (current value $3.3 million).

The JH and JD Gunn Fellowship is funded by a foundation established from the estates—and in memory—of Mr Jack Heath Gunn and Mrs Jean Dempsey Gunn.

Specific aims of the fellowship are to:

  • develop the central research program in the Discipline of General Practice
  • develop and evaluate innovative primary health care models to improve health outcomes in a range of areas, including joint disease, mental health, palliative care, respiratory health and cardiovascular health provide a career structure so that the fellow can be highly competitive in the NHMRC Research Fellowships Scheme, on expiration of the appointment.

Adelaide Unicare Fellowship

Adelaide Unicare was a University not-for profit entity that managed several general practices in urban Adelaide and rural South Australia. The oldest practice at Highbury was established in the 1980s by Professor Tim Murrell. The newest was the Playford super clinic, which continues to serve several northern communities.

The Adelaide Unicare Fellowship was established in 2005, with a $1.3 million donation from accumulated Adelaide Unicare profits (current value $1.976 million). Its main aim is to assist an academic GP to undertake clinically-relevant research that aligns with the strategic aims of the Discipline.

Myrtle Mabel Cowles bequest

A bequest of $87,000 was generously left by Myrtle Mabel Cowles in 2008 to further the aims of the Discipline of General Practice Care and Prevention Program. The Discipline has since added additional monies to ensure that interest from the bequest can fund  worthwhile projects on an ongoing basis. Its current value is $235,000.

General Practice Research Fund

Established in 2007 using residual funding from consultancies and grants, interest from this fund supports research across the discipline, and includes: the conduct of pilot studies (proof of concept to demonstrate feasibility and value); statistical support; publication fees; and direct research costs. The fund’s current value is $505,000.

Would you like to support the discipline’s work?

The Discipline of General Practice has a proven track record of carefully growing, and wisely using, all bequests and donations for the benefit of our community. If you would like to contribute to this valuable research, whether financially or in kind, please contact us.