James Fitzpatrick is a consultant paediatrician, researcher and entrepreneur. He established PATCHES Paediatrics to harness the creativity of social enterprise and the precision of science to address seemingly intractable health problems in Aboriginal communities. James was awarded Young Australian of the Year in 2001 for his work in Aboriginal health, rural health workforce improvement and youth suicide prevention. Having completed his PhD through the University of Sydney, and as a former Infantry soldier, James combines a scientific approach with a reputation for getting things done.
He recently led a federally funded project aimed at improving the lives of children living in remote Indigenous communities in the WA Kimberley, in partnership with local community organisations and national research institutes. The work involved estimating for the first time in Australia the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in the 40 remote communities of the Fitzroy Valley. Having documented the prevalence of FASD, James is now working with health and education partners to develop a child health clinic run in schools to help young people to reach their educational potential.
In partnership with Aboriginal leaders in the Fitzroy Valley, he leads a community-based FASD prevention strategy. This strategy has seen rates of drinking in pregnancy reduce from 60% in 2009 to <20% in 2015. The bold goal of this strategy is to ‘Make FASD History’ and reduce rates of drinking in pregnancy to below 10% by 2018.
James is the founder of True Blue Dreaming, an Outback Youth Mentoring Program working with communities in the WA heat-belt and Kimberley regions, with a vision to expand the program throughout Western Australia and then nationally. He currently sits on the Australian National Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drugs.
James has been a rabble-rouser and activist for some time. As the chairman of the National Rural Health Students Network in 2000, James shifted the focus of this organisation of 5000 medical and allied health students to deliver community service activities to some of Australia's most remote communities. In that year he helped to establish the Carnarvon Children's Festival in Western Australia in response to alarming rates of youth suicide. Through the Children's Festival members of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities were encouraged to come together around their most precious resource… their children.