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, as part of 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.

In collaboration with Adelaide Unicare, 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.

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 practicing health professionals in the community
  • undertake, support, and publish research conducted in general practice and primary care environments, and aimed at improving health outcomes
  • develop a team of highly skilled professionals that values excellence and fosters growth and development
  • improve other areas of medical education by integrating the core principles and values of general practice into the broader medical education curriculum
  • provide excellent primary care to the community
  • foster inclusiveness and value diversity in the delivery of health care and education
  • advocate for general practice within the health care system
  • foster partnerships within the University of Adelaide and broader community.

Wide-ranging research

Our staff have extensive experience in: developing and conducting clinical trials; cross-sectional and longitudinal studies; analysing large data sets; and using mixed methods approaches (including qualitative methods) to inform health policy. They regularly recruit patients for long-term studies, and collaborate with leading interstate and international universities.

Members of the discipline have successfully supervised academic GP registrars, several honours, master’s and PhD students, and consistently attract significant National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and other grant funding as lead or co-investigators.

Specific areas of research include:

  • Assessing cardiovascular risk and preventive strategies in Australian general practices. These studies use data from the National Prescribing Service collected by MedicineInsight, which includes around 600 participating general practices across Australia, with over 2000 GPs, representing more than three million patients of all ages. Contact: Professor Nigel Stocks
  • 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 significant 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
  • 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: Dr 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 the MedicineInsight datasetContact: Dr Carla Bernardo
  • Providing annual vaccine effectiveness estimates, for influenza-like illness and other conditions seen in general practice, as an essential part of pandemic preparedness for Australia. This analysis is performed using de-identified data collected by the Australian Sentinel Practices Research Network (ASPREN). ASPREN is a network of sentinel general practitioners and nurse practitioners, funded by the Commonwealth’s Department of Health and directed by the Discipline of General Practice.
  • 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 for influenza, pneumococcus and herpes zoster in patients with immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMID) using patient and general practitioner reminders through the Doctors’ Control Panel software. Contact: Dr David Gonzalez-Chica
  • Using qualitative research methodologies to gain in-depth understandings of general practitioners’ perspectives about current practice, knowledge, and level of interest in managing sleep disorders in primary care with the overall aim of designing and evaluating new models of care for insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea in a variety of primary care settings. ContactDr Elizabeth Hoon

Associated with four Centres of Research Excellence

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

Bequests and fellowships

The discipline has gratefully received several generous bequests over the years, and has also—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, a number of 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 $2.7 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 is a University not-for profit entity that manages several general practices in urban Adelaide and rural South Australia. The oldest practice is at Highbury and was established in the 1990s by Professor Tim Murrell. The newest is the Playford super clinic, which serves several northern communities.

The Adelaide Unicare Fellowship was established in 2005, with a $1.3 million donation from accumulated Adelaide Unicare profits (current value $1.7 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 a worthwhile project on an ongoing basis. Its current value is $185,000.

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 $370,000.

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.