Featured Doctor

COLES, A/Prof Jan

Australia - family doctor

Jan Coles PhD, MMed (Women’s Health), MBBS, DCH, GCHPE is one of the members of the new WONCA Special Interest Group (SIG) on Family Violence.
She has written an article for WONCA News August 2014, about the work of this new SIG from its formation in Prague, in 2013, until the WONCA Europe  2014 conference in Lisbon. Read more here

What is your current work?

I am an associate professor and academic family physician at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and have been a family doctor for more than 25 years.

How did you become interested in Sexual and Family Violence?

I began working and researching in the area of sexual violence because of the patients I saw in my clinical practice. It was one young mother who was having difficulty holding and caring for her young son that opened my eyes to severe lifelong consequences of childhood sexual abuse. It was the starkness of the young mother’s distress and my own lack of training that pushed me into research, medical education and advocacy work.

Since meeting that young mother I have researched in the area of early mothering and breastfeeding after childhood sexual abuse and perinatal service provision to survivors finding that those who have experienced sexual abuse have significant issues with intimate touch and early parenting even when they “successfully” breastfeed. I continue to document the impacts of childhood sexual violence and adult violence on mental and physical health and on GP service use and satisfaction for young Australian women working with the Australian Longitudinal Women’s Health Study data.
My international work is with the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) in Pretoria, South Africa and with WONCA. In collaboration with the SVRI I have run workshops to assist in the prevention of vicarious trauma for those undertaking sexual violence research, writing a briefing paper for researchers and guidelines. In 2011, I gave the closing address at the 2nd International Sexual Violence Research Forum on “Staying Safe”.

As a medical educator I have worked across the primary care disciplines with University partners across Australia to develop an open access online learning module on family violence for primary health care students across Australia. By better educating students, the project team aims to improve the support and services available to survivors. The education resource will soon be available on http://www.med.monash.edu.au/general-practice/pacts/.

What involvement have you had with WONCA?

My work with WONCA includes being an active member of the WONCA Working Party on Women and Family Medicine since 2007. She is a foundation member of the WONCA Special Interest Group on Family Violence. I ran four international workshops on “Hidden Violence” including teaching family doctors in China in the last year.

My two greatest achievements are firstly taking a problem I saw in my clinic, adding to medical knowledge in the area and working with WONCA to advocate to improve family violence education to doctors so that patients can access better care. This year WONCA with the World Medical Association and Medical Women International Association, took a document to the 67th World Health Assembly which documented the care needed by women and girls who have experienced violence. I was amazed and proud that as a family doctor I could see an issue with my patients and work with WONCA to influence international policy. My second greatest achievement (though not necessarily in that order) are my wonderful children and family, having three children in 13 months was challenging early in my career. I only had time for my clinical work and my family. It was hard to do anything extra.

What do you like doing out of hours?

For relaxation I like to read, write, sew patchwork quilts, cycle on my pinarello bicycle, swim and spend time at the beach preferably with my family - but if the family can’t come, my Rhodesian Ridgebacks help fill the gap - regardless of the weather.

Jan's email is [email protected]