14 Sep 2020
A tribunal has confirmed a decision by the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) to refuse to grant Mr Christopher Nowlan provisional registration as a medical practitioner because he does not hold an approved qualification.
Mr Nowlan began the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery at the University of Queensland in 2012. The Board has accredited those programs of study as providing a qualification for the purposes of general registration as a medical practitioner, normally undertaken over four years.
After three and a half years of study the university refused to further enrol Mr Nowlan due to unsatisfactory academic progress. During that time Mr Nowlan failed three subjects and required supplementary assessment to pass four other subjects. Mr Nowlan appealed the university’s decision to the Senate Appeals Committee, completing the remaining four subjects under provisional enrolment while the appeal was being decided.
The committee dismissed Mr Nowlan’s appeal in September 2018. He was not given credit for the four subjects passed during his provisional enrolment. Based on the subjects he did pass, Mr Nowlan was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Medical Studies, which is not recognised as a qualification for the purpose of general registration in the profession. Given his exclusion from further study, Mr Nowlan did not take and therefore successfully complete the required Year 4 Objective Structured Clinical Examination.
Mr Nowlan applied to the Medical Board of Australia for provisional registration as a medical practitioner in August 2018. In January 2019 the Board refused the application and Mr Nowlan applied to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal), seeking review of the Board’s decision to refuse his application for provisional registration.
Mr Nowlan argued that he eventually did pass all the subjects required for the degrees, and the Board could act under section 62(2) of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law) to impose conditions on his registration enabling him to be eligible for registration.
In August 2020, the tribunal confirmed the Board’s decision to refuse his application for provisional registration as a medical practitioner.
The tribunal found that while the Board did have a discretion under the National Law to consider whether Mr Nowlan was eligible for registration by imposing conditions on his registration, it was not obvious how any conditions could overcome the deficiencies in Mr Nowlan’s qualifications or his unsatisfactory academic progress.
It noted that imposing conditions to address those issues would not be consistent with the objectives and guiding principles set out by the National Law. The tribunal found claims made in Mr Nowlan’s submission that he was competent and adequately trained to be mere assertions.
The tribunal found the university was entitled to disregard Mr Nowlan’s results obtained during a time when he was only provisionally enrolled. It noted he was asking the tribunal to treat his application in the same way as if his appeal to the appeals committee had been allowed, and it found no reason for doing so.
‘It is a doubtful basis on which to claim the equivalent of completing an approved course of study, if the body conducting that course regards the academic progress in it as unsatisfactory,’ the tribunal noted.
The tribunal concluded that Mr Nowlan’s application for provisional registration was rejected. The decision is available on the AustLII website.