5 Minutes with…

5 Minutes with Lisa Brichko (’06) – Emergency Department Physician talks of her experience during COVID-19

Lisa Brichko (’06, née Tescher) graduated from medicine in 2011 and is now an Emergency Department (ED) Physician at both The Alfred and Cabrini Hospitals. We recently caught up with Lisa and asked her to share her reflections on how COVID-19 has transformed her workplace.

As emergency doctors, Lisa says they are trained to respond to mass tragedy in a short term event like a terrorist attack or a major accident, but “When I picked my career path I hadn’t even remotely considered it as a possibility as something I, or my colleagues, would be dealing with over a prolonged period”.

While describing the impact on the ED as “constantly evolving”, Lisa mentioned that while the initial situation escalated quite quickly and the workload changed, things have certainly eased since March this year. She described the stressful situation some of her co-workers experienced in having to move out of their homes, away from their families, in order to prevent potential spread to family members, especially if they were high risk (elderly or with pre-existing medical conditions).

In mid-March, prior to the government imposing lockdown on international travel, there were not many community screening areas set up, so a large number of people were coming to the ED for testing. Patients that are admitted to hospital and have had a COVID-19 test performed need to remain in an isolation cubicle until the result has come back negative. Early in the pandemic this could take many days, however with improved laboratory resources, test results are now available much faster.

As we watched the numbers peak in Italy, The Alfred hospital rapidly changed the infrastructure by rebuilding large sections of the hospital, such as boardrooms and other sections, to accommodate large numbers of patients. “While there is the capacity to hold large numbers, fortunately, we haven’t had to use those spaces yet,” Lisa says.

As policies and procedures were updated over this time, community testing centres were built and on-site screening clinics were set up to enable testing separate to the ED, freeing up their space again. Now, thanks to the new clinics and community testing areas that have been set up, tests can often be completed within a day. However, things like staff meetings went from 1 meeting a week to 4, and there would be daily running of staff educational programs on how to use equipment they wouldn’t normally use.

In April, during the stricter lockdown period, there was a significant decrease, with ED attendance numbers reducing by approximately 20-30%. Lisa attributes this to less people going out to clubs, drinking, taking drugs and undertaking other dangerous activities. Also, she mentioned that many people expressed fear in attending the ED because they didn’t want to be exposed to Coronavirus while being there. Now, however, the numbers seem to be returning to what they were prior to the pandemic and Lisa has said that people need to know that it is safe to come to ED’s if they’re in an emergency situation.

Lisa also discussed the large drop in numbers of cases of influenza and gastroenteritis as a result of people performing better hygiene, social distancing and staying at home.

While it is hard to predict how things will evolve from weeks to months ahead, Lisa said she is happy and relieved that Australia seems to be much safer and with much smaller numbers in both cases and deaths than many other parts of the world.

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Catching up at fun reunions

It was great to see so many Alumni attend last Sunday’s 5-year and 20-year reunions. Whether it’s been a few weeks or many years between catching up, the Bialik connection was as strong as ever. The 5-Year reunion group even re-enacted some of their lunchtime downball antics.


Sweet Success for Alumni Charlie and Harry Nissen

Charlie Nissen OC’07 turned a dream into reality when he created Hunted + Gathered. He and brother, Harry Nissen OC’08, produce delicious, ethical chocolate, with a strong emphasis on the wellbeing of the cacao growers, as well as leaving a small footprint on the environment. The Nissens control the sourcing of beans and flavour profiles, creating chocolate from bean to bar using between 3-5 ingredients.

“Their philosophy is that the simplest things are best, and usually taste the best too. Hunted + Gathered place an emphasis on small details to create things they can be proud of.” See more at


Alumni News – Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus OC ’07

Last time we heard from Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus OC ’07, they were making headlines for their “Books on the Rail” initiative, setting books loose on Australian public transport services to be read, enjoyed and left for the next person to do the same. Their love of reading has now inspired the best friends’ latest endeavour, a novel called The Book Ninja, published by Simon and Schuster. Berg and Kalus describe the book as a quirky, romantic, comedic love letter to Melbourne, friendship, soulmates and books.


Alumni News – Stephen Bornstein OC’06 Young Australian Engineer of the Year

Mazel tov to Stephen Bornstein OC’06 for winning the Engineers Australia Young Professional Engineer of the Year!

Stephen, who is currently a capability engineer at Airbus, has made great strides in his career so far and is an inspiration to our budding Bialik engineers. He studied Aerospace Engineering at Monash Unviersity before being employed as a graduate at BAE Systems working on the Nulka Active Missile Decoy and the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile providing mechanical and systems solutions to enhance Australia’s defence capability. At Rocket Lab he was a senior vehicle engineer developing the electron space launch vehicle.

In his ‘spare’ time Stephen volunteers with STEM programs, teaching kids about engineering. Stephen helped establish STEM robotics programs in 4 high schools and over a dozen primary schools over a 7 year period, providing outreach to a variety of private as well as disadvantaged schools in both Victoria and Queensland. He also built a cockpit simulator for the Royal Flying Doctors Service and a drone to stop poaching in Africa.

When asked if Stephen could offer any words of advice to our students at Bialik about STEM oriented careers they might be thinking about pursuing, he said “STEM is a thought provoking career. You will be challenged to solve problems which often have never been solved before and if you are ambitious and pioneering then this will appeal to you. If you love technology, design and creativity then you will find a very fulfilling career in STEM”.

Kol ha’kavod, Stephen


Keren Dobia OC’04 – 2017 AIPP Professional Photographer of the Year

Keren Dobia OC’04, an accredited professional photographer, has been named as the 2017 AIPP Australian Professional Photographer of the Year by The Australian Institute of Photography.

Keren studied a Diploma of Photoimaging at NMIT, where she is now a lecturer, has exhibited her pieces at various galleries and also works as a creative director for theatrical compositions, designing, creating and sourcing costumes and sets.

More than 500 of Australia’s top professional photographers, submitted almost 2,000 images that were peer-judged anonymously over three days by some of the industry’s heavyweights

Keren’s artwork is influenced by her background in painting, drawing, and fashion, and her images often blur the line between photography and illustration. Keren’s creativity extends to the design and fabrication of costumes and sets. With a natural attention to detail and her industry recognised postproduction skills Keren moulds her inspirational work from concept to completion.

At the 2017 Australian Professional Photography Awards, a photographer and judge said of Keren’s work that “there are some portraits that simply say what we look like, and there’s some that say who we are.”

This is the principle that has inspired Keren’s ongoing series of portraits depicting Australian artists and artisans, I AM. – four of which earned her the distinction of being named the 2017 AIPP Australian Professional Photographer of the Year.

Mazel tov to Keren and kol ha’kavod and this wonderful recognition of her work.