5 March 2010
Professor David Healy, Chairman of the Monash Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, will this year begin his influential new role as President of the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS) – an organisation of 59 member countries and around 40,000 doctors and other health professionals.
This is the first time in the 60-year history of the IFFS and its sister organisation – the Federation for International Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) – that an Australian has been head of either body. Professor Healy was elected at the last IFF World Congress in 2007 and will preside over the next international meeting, to be held in Munich in September.
"I'm charged with providing leadership on the direction of the IFFS in the next three years, and the task now is to work with the World Health Organisation in raising standards through workshops that are run around the world, usually in developing countries," says Professor Healy.
Other leadership goals involve making the organisation more inclusive of patients and counsellors (for the first time ever, a patient at the next congress will present a major lecture on her personal view of infertility), and maintaining the high clinical, scientific and ethical standards of the organisation.
After World War II, the medical community developed two international societies to care for women's health across the globe. While FIGO concentrates on obstetrics and safe motherhood, IFFS focuses on contraception, fertility, infertility and gynaecology.
While in many countries women such as Hilary Clinton exert a strong influence on the political process and can agitate for better health care, IFFS member countries also include those where issues of fertility – especially contraception and abortion – are taboo.
"In many other countries that the IFFS includes, women are regarded as inferior from the moment of conception. That is a somewhat controversial IFFS issue. Especially for those of us from western nations. Clearly, some countries see things differently," he says.
Professor Healy has been Chair of the Monash University Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Monash Medicine Centre (MMC) since 1995. He is a past president of the Fertility Society of Australia, has been a consultant at Monash IVF for 25 years, and co-founded the Jean Hailes Foundation. Professor Healy introduced the medicine Mifepristone (RU486) into Australia.
The MMC is the largest obstetric hospital in Australia, and the only one that has units in adult intensive care, adult coronary care and neonatal intensive care. Around 85 per cent of Victoria's riskier pregnancies end up being referred to the MMC. The hospital delivers more than 8000 babies each year, and its training program in obstetrics and gynaecology is over-subscribed.
Although he no longer delivers the babies of infertile couples, after 20 years of obstetrics Professor Healy says that it "was a special and most wonderful privilege".