Leading Wesley intensive care specialist at the helm of the College of Intensive Care Medicine

18 August 2014
The Wesley Hospital’s Deputy Director of Intensive Care Medicine Professor Bala Venkatesh is the new President of the College of Intensive Care Medicine (CICM) of Australia and New Zealand.

Dr Venkatesh trained as a physician and anaesthetist before specialising in intensive care medicine, and has been the Wesley’s Deputy Director of Intensive Care Medicine since 2003. The Wesley intensive care unit is one of the largest private hospital facilities in Australia with approximately 1,500 admissions annually. It is CICM-accredited for 12-month training of intensive care medicine specialists.  

“Intensive care medicine is something I am passionate about. It is the one specialty that keeps you in touch with all other medical and surgical specialties involved in a patient’s care,” Dr Venkatesh said. “It is a challenging field, assessing and managing critically-ill patients with life-threatening conditions. Looking after patients through the acute phase of critical illness, and then seeing them recover and return home is very rewarding.”

As well as his work at The Wesley Hospital, Dr Venkatesh is Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at the University of Queensland, Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney and also a pre-eminent specialist in Intensive Care at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital.

He served as CICM Vice-President for two years before his election to President this year. The CICM formally took over the responsibility for training and certification of intensive care medicine specialists in 2010 from the Joint Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP).

Dr Venkatesh has been actively involved in education and research throughout his career, and has received several grants for research from foundations and industry. He initiated, and has been convening the Annual Brisbane Intensive Care Registrars course for the past 16 years and is the principal author of the textbook Data Interpretation in Critical Care Medicine.

In the early 1990s at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, he did laboratory and clinical research which pioneered the commercial development of the Paratrend continuous blood gas monitoring system.
Currently he is the Principal Investigator of the international, multi-centre ADRENAL trial, which is assessing whether corticosteroid therapy (hydrocortisone) can improve outcomes for critically ill patients with septic shock.

The trial is funded by a $3.27 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council, and aims to involve 3,800 patients admitted to intensive care units in approximately 60 hospitals around the globe.  So far, more than 1,000 patients from 35 hospitals, including The Wesley Hospital, in Australia, New Zealand and Saudi Arabia have been involved in the study.

“Septic shock is the result of infection, which triggers a complex, whole-of-body inflammatory process that can lead to poor blood supply to organs and organ failure,” Dr Venkatesh said.

“It is a major cause of mortality in critically ill patients admitted to intensive care units, although survival has improved over the past two decades. In Australia and New Zealand we have the best sepsis survival rates in the world. Our improved understanding of disease processes, high-level care and one-on-one nursing in intensive care units are contributors to these improved outcomes.

“When patients are admitted to intensive care with sepsis or septic shock they receive a number of therapies, including antibiotics, fluids, and medication to boost blood pressure and blood supply to organs.  There has been previous research, with varied findings, on whether steroids might also be of benefit.

“The aim of the ADRENAL study is to provide definitive data that would allow doctors to make informed decisions on the addition of low dose steroid therapy for patients with septic shock.”

Media inquiries: Karen Milliner, Compass Communications Group, 07 33839 7605 or 0412 443116

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