Cutting-edge technology for urology surgery at Cairns
While the surgical speciality of urology may not be an obvious choice for many junior doctors, for Dr Munad Khan it is one that offers both many challenges and rewards.
“Choosing urology was something that happened gradually over a period of time as a junior doctor. What we do in the operating theatre tends to be quite varied and I like the ability to use different operating modalities which brings its own challenges but also rewards.
“I have also always had an interest in working with patients with cancer, and urology has a large representation of that particularly in relation to prostate cancer.
Currently, in his second year of registrar training in urology at Cairns Base Hospital, Dr Khan is already getting wide exposure to a variety of clinical procedures with many opportunities for hands-on practice.
“Obviously an important part of surgical training is to take on new challenges and have those opportunities and I think they are more readily available in a regional centre like Cairns as compared to a metro centre.
“In the team, I am currently working in, there are three registrars which means we each get quite a bit of exposure to the operating theatre. We are well-supervised with four consultant surgeons so you are never left in a situation where you are out of your depth.
“The other advantage of being with a smaller unit is there is a lot of one-on-one time with your supervisors and consultants so the level of supervision or critique they can give you is enhanced. They can guide you in the right direction a lot more readily than can be done in a bigger hospital.”
Another important feature of undertaking urology surgical training in Cairns has been the opportunity to utilise cutting-edge, robotic surgery technology such as the Da Vinci Machine.
“We are pretty fortunate up here to have access to a Da Vinci machine here in Cairns. The Da Vinci machine is a very new thing in Australia so it’s quite uncommon to have that access in a public hospital, especially for such a small unit.
“Urology, in particular, is has taken up robotic surgery very broadly and the Da Vinci machine is used especially for operating on the prostate, kidneys and bladder. The prostrate, for example, is a very small organ that sits basically entirely behind the pelvic bone so it’s traditionally been a very hard part of the body to access. But with the Da Vinci machine, we now have a much greater range of dexterity when operating, because it gives you a 360-degree articulation of the instruments that you use in the patient’s body.
“Other advantages of this type of robotic surgery include being able to do complex procedures with minimal access surgery, that is, making a few small incisions rather than a big one. So patients tend to have quicker recoveries and shorter times spent in hospital when they have these types of robotic procedures compared to a traditional, open procedure.”
Surprisingly, according to Dr Khan it has been the close connections made with colleagues that have been the biggest advantage of undertaking his surgical training at Cairns regional hospital.
“The thing I have liked most about working at a regional hospital with a small-sized team is that you get to know everybody on a personal level. I see my colleagues outside of work regularly and we do other activities which is really great. It makes Cairns a potential place that I would want to settle down in, compared to working in a bigger hospital where you are just one of a crowd, where no one gets to know you.”
“Having close connections with colleagues has also enriched my professional relationships. I know I will be able to call on my colleagues for help or advice throughout my future training and career if I should move somewhere else.”
Looking to the future, Dr Khan hopes to continue having variety in his role as a urologist registrar and is thankful for the opportunity to do this during his time in Cairns.
“In the early years with your training, a place like North Queensland is ideal as it certainly gives you the breadth of surgical experience and volume of operations. It also gives you experience with how to be flexible and how to manage patients that come from a variety of backgrounds.
“I think there is certainly a lot to be gained from your training time in North Queensland, particularly due to its regional and remote setting.”