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7 February 2022

JCU Grad flying the NQ flag in prestigious national training opportunity

A born and raised North Queensland doctor has defied the odds to make her way into advanced training in one of the country’s most competitive medical specialisations.

Dr Helen Buschel is one of just two trainees across Australia and New Zealand accepted in the 2022 intake for paediatric surgery training, commencing Monday 7 February through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS).

Hailing from Cairns, Dr Buschel graduated from James Cook University (JCU) in 2016 and completed her internship and junior years at Townsville University Hospital and Cairns Hospital.

Her training pathway bucks the trend of the typically metropolitan pathway for doctors aspiring to become paediatric surgeons.

“The perception is that you can’t get onto a specialist surgical training pathway without spending some time in a city,” Dr Buschel says. “The fact that I’ve done it purely from working in North Queensland shows you do get a lot of training opportunities here.

“Paediatric surgery felt like a distant dream. It’s what I always wanted to do, but I didn't think I had a chance because it’s so competitive.

“When I got the acceptance letter I thought it was a mistake. I had to get a colleague to confirm what it said, then I called mum and she didn’t believe it either!”

Dr Buschel has spent the past five years preparing for the application process which has included extensive clinical training, rotations in remote communities like Palm Island, research, and a Master’s degree.

She also attributes a part of her success to the close relationship she has been able to build with senior clinicians, consultants, and supervisors.

“I had never experienced paediatric surgery until my first rotation as an intern. I absolutely loved it and the whole team were really supportive of me.

“I am very passionate about training in North Queensland. If I hadn't have gone to Townsville there is no way I'd be doing what I am today,” Dr Buschel said.

Helping facilitate training opportunities for passionate junior doctors like Dr Helen Buschel is JCU’s Northern Queensland Regional Training Hubs (NQRTH).

NQRTH was formed in partnership with public and private hospitals, health services and GP clinics in the northern Queensland region to help support the Australian Government’s Integrated Rural Training Pipeline for Medicine (IRTP) under the Health Workforce Program.

NQRTH Program Manager Ms Andrea Muller congratulated Dr Buschel on her selection and said it was a win for North Queensland.

“This highlights the fact that doctors who spend their junior doctor years training in the North Queensland region are extremely competitive when applying to Specialty Colleges,” Ms Muller said.

“Junior doctors in our regions have direct access to consultants, completing more complex and varied clinical work and with greater autonomy compared to their counterparts in large, busy metro hospitals."

"They also have access to nationally renowned researchers and JCU resources, allowing them to easily get involved in research projects.”

NQRTH aims to help address the shortage of doctors in many of Queensland’s regional, rural and remote communities by promoting nearly 1,400 training opportunities for interns, medical officers and registrars.

Dr Buschel’s training journey will commence in Townsville and take her to hospitals across the country over six years.

While much of this time will be spent in metropolitan settings, Dr Buschel hopes to return home to pursue her dream job and put her specialised skills to work for young patients in the north.

“I’ve loved working in Townsville and Cairns. I like how closely everyone works together and supports each other, and the lifestyle is fantastic. I would love to come back to work somewhere similar where I can do outreach to rural areas.

Find out more about Orthopaedic Surgery training

> Entry requirements
> Training Time
> How to apply
> Download pathway guide

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NQRTH is an initiative of the Australian Government's Integrated Rural Training Pipeline (IRTP) and is facilitated by James Cook University in partnership with public and private hospitals, Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC), health services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and GP clinics.

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