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Homegrown paediatricians bring subspecialties to NQ

20 September 2022

Homegrown paediatricians bring subspecialties to NQ

Paediatric rheumatologist Dr Courtney Samuel and paediatric and fetal cardiologist Dr Rosh Samuel.

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Seeing hospital through a patient’s lens

5 September 2022

Seeing hospital through a patient’s lens

Dr Alisha Thomson has seen the health system from doctor, patient and management perspectives during her five years of treatment for ovarian cancer. Dr Thomson was a 27-year-old James Cook University graduate in her second year of medical practice when she was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. Discovering a new passion amid the demands of treatment ultimately led her to change her medical specialty training path.  “I was a psychiatry house officer at that point. After a significant period of sick leave, I was given the opportunity to work as a medical education registrar through a return-to-work program,” she said. “I went back to psych and then did some time as the medical admin reg and just really enjoyed the systems thinking and looking at the bigger picture. I loved psychiatry, and it took me years to finally switch, because it's hard to change lanes.” Now a medical administration registrar, Dr Thomson has endured four rounds of chemotherapy as well as radiation, surgery, and therapies such as monoclonal antibodies and breast cancer drugs. Her experiences as a cancer patient continue to inform her leadership role in improving systems and processes at Townsville Hospital and Health Service (THHS) and putting patients’ needs at the centre of decision making.

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Doctor finds opportunity in regions

31 August 2022

Doctor finds opportunity in regions

Dr Alex Mitrichev is an advocate of medical training in regional Queensland. A former Russian navy doctor who emigrated to Australia 10 years ago, Dr Mitrichev worked at Cairns, Hervey Bay and Sunshine Coast hospitals before taking up a role as Principal House Officer (PHO) in orthopaedics at Townsville University Hospital. “In regional settings, you can plan your future much easier than in the bigger centres,” he says. “Townsville is a good combination of the tertiary hospital experience equal to the experience you’re potentially going to get from Brisbane or other big places, and also a lifestyle you probably will never achieve in the big city.” Dr Mitrichev and his wife, Iana, an architectural technician, have two young children and love the easy outdoor lifestyle their family has been able to enjoy in both Townsville and Cairns: “It's quick to get around, there are a lot of things to do, including for the family. People are nice, supportive, happy to help you if you have any questions. There is a lot of opportunity, especially for the kids.”

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Single-practice model delivers in the west

30 August 2022

Single-practice model delivers in the west

Things came full circle for GP supervisors Dr Clare and Dr David Walker this year when JCU graduates Dr Tom Currie and Dr Samantha Campbell returned to Longreach as rural generalist trainees. “It's the first time in our careers that we’ve mentored students who became junior doctors who have done their training at the bigger facilities and returned to work with us. It's really nice,” says Clare, a former Rural Doctors Association of Queensland president. “Samantha came to Longreach as a fourth-year and sixth-year student, while Tom was placed here in sixth year.  They were both keen and engaged students whom we stayed in contact with the during their junior doctor and advanced skill training years.” The Walkers are helping to shape medical services in Central West Queensland, David as Executive Director of Medical Services for Central West Hospital and Health Service (CWHHS), and Clare as a board member. Operating under an innovative model of care called the CWHHS single-practice model, the hospital and health service employs salaried Senior Medical Officers who provide primary care at a privately owned GP clinic during the day and share the hospital after-hours call load. “It solved a couple of problems,” Clare says. “Medicare billings in general practice are just not fit-for-purpose in remote areas. You can’t attract and retain doctors for the salaries that they would earn through Medicare billing alone in most remote areas. There are a lot of areas in remote Queensland and, more broadly, a lot of remote areas across Australia where there are just no GPs anymore. So, if this is the model that works and we can recruit to it easily and allow the patients to have access to GPs, it’s certainly one of the models that should be looked at more broadly. “In this town, there’s that appreciation that even during a day when you’re at the general practice, looking after patients, you might have to leave with a minute’s notice to attend a delivery or respond to an emergency and then come back. You’re on call and you are providing the higher level of care that’s required in remote areas.”

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Paediatrics calling for junior doctor

25 August 2022

Paediatrics calling for junior doctor

Dr Eliza Kurth has been accepted on to the paediatric training program after spending her internship and junior house officer year training at Townsville University Hospital. Dr Kurth will start Basic Paediatric Training in Darwin in 2023 with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians on the Townsville University Hospital and The Royal Darwin Hospital rotation. She’s thrilled to be following her dream specialty. “I love the medicine, the bright little patients I get to care for, and the unique opportunity you have as a clinician to make a lasting impact on a child’s life,” the 2020 James Cook University graduate says. “I was originally drawn to a career in medicine due to its emphasis on human connection and the provision of care to those more vulnerable than yourself.” Dr Kurth has loved the training experience at TUH, and will return as a registrar in 2024. “I decided to stay local as I felt very connected to the local hospitals and communities that supported my medical training to date,” she says. “By training in a regional hospital, I feel that I was very well supported, had access to quality teaching, close consultant supervision, research opportunities and a tight-knit network of colleagues/friends that have shaped me as a junior doctor.” She says growing up in the small town in North Queensland of Kuranda was instrumental in her desire to pursue a career in regional and rural medicine. “In my spare time, I love to travel back home to go hiking, chase waterfalls and spend time with family,” she says. She returned to JCU to share her experiences with first-year students in one of the ‘Meet the Graduates’ sessions held for pre-clinical students. Junior doctors reflect on their time at medical school, share tips and tricks, and talk about placement experiences and the relevance of med modules in their day-to-day work. JCU students do at least 20 weeks of rural and remote placements during their six-year degree, which makes them work-ready from the start of internship. In sixth year, they become a valuable part of the medical workforce as student interns.   “Hands down my favourite placement was my final-year rural internship at the Weipa Hospital,” Dr Kurth says. “This placement was perhaps the most pivotal in my transition from a medical student to a junior doctor. “I was independently reviewing patients in outpatient settings, helping manage patients in the emergency department and attending lots of outreach clinics in neighbouring communities (Napranum/Mapoon). I made some of my closest friends on that placement, and we spent many weekends adventuring in a 4WD, camping, fishing and learning about the local culture. “JCU provided me with all the tools and experiences required to navigate my first few years as a junior doctor. I’m incredibly grateful for my training so far, the invaluable lessons instilled in me, and the growing development of regional and rural medicine that I have an opportunity to take part in.” NQRTH connects medical students, intern and junior doctors with a network of opportunities and resources designed to create a supportive and clear path to specialist (including general practice) training, and beyond, in our regions. Our network works together to strengthen medical specialist training with the view to build a health workforce prepared to meet the health needs of our regional and rural communities in Cairns, Central West, Mackay, North West, Torres and Cape, and Townsville. NQRTH is facilitated by James Cook University, who partner with hospital and health services and training providers to create a connected career pathway beginning at the medical undergraduate level right through to fellowship.

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An Outback adventure just what the doctor ordered

7 July 2022

An Outback adventure just what the doctor ordered

Dr Christopher Akwuobi graduated from medical school in Nigeria eager for a challenge and passionate about helping people. He found what he was looking for, and much more, in the North-West Queensland town of Mount Isa. Arriving in Australia in 2020, Dr Akwuobi first completed a three-week medical observership at Mount Isa Medical Centre, then secured a position as a medical officer at Mount Isa Hospital. He says the Outback mining town ‘feels like home, just a little hotter’ and has provided a balance of interesting clinical work and excellent supervision; exactly the kind of medical experience that had brought him to Australia. “I chose Mount Isa because I've always known from my background in medicine that rural areas are where you’ll see the more challenging cases and get more hands-on experience,” Dr Akwuobi says. While rotating throughout the hospital’s departments, Dr Akwuobi found himself gravitating toward the emergency department (ED), an area he was already familiar with from over 10 years of work back home in Nigeria. “I’ve always been in the ED and general practice since graduating. Watching how an Australian emergency department is run was a very good experience. Right now I’m looking at doing specialty training in emergency medicine after I get my general registration,” Dr Akwuobi says. Mount Isa Hospital has been the perfect place for a doctor like Dr Akwuobi who is interested in training in emergency medicine. As a part of the North-West Hospital and Health Service (NWHHS), the hospital services NWHHS serves a population of approximately 32,000 people across 300,000 square kilometres. Dr Akwuobi has seen a diverse range of medical cases in emergency from young to elderly patients, including acute coronary syndrome, allergies and anaphylactic reactions, sepsis, orbital cellulitis, stroke, head injuries, lacerations and complex fractures, pneumothorax, GI bleeding, appendicitis, cholecystitis, diverticulitis, bowel obstructions, alcoholic liver disease, and a range of chronic health conditions. “Some of the things I have observed in Mount Isa were completely new to me. You see a lot of complex cases and chronic issues as well as a lot around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health,” he says. The need for more doctors is an issue facing many of our regional and rural communities, and Mount Isa is no exception. Dr Akwuobi says he could see the strain on the town’s health services, particularly when it came to general practice. “If we don’t have enough GPs, it adds a burden on the emergency department as patients are presenting with issues that would be more suited to treatment in general practice. We try as much as we can to see all the patients, but with long wait times you might have patients leave rather than wait for treatment, which impacts health outcomes,” he says. The diverse and complex caseload Dr Akwuobi was seeing significantly grew his clinical skills and knowledge. Supporting him every step of his progression was what he says is the best medical supervision he’s ever worked under. “It’s not your typical supervisor-trainee relationship, it was more of a closer partnership,” Dr Akwuobi says. “We have consultants and senior medical officers available most of the time so if you were ever confused, you could always get someone to support you. They were also very helpful for me as an International Medical Graduate They're able to guide you, especially with Australian guidelines. Honestly, these are just some of the best doctors I've ever worked in my career. “There is a culture where people don’t say no to each other, as far as it is in their ability to help, everyone was really happy to support one another. You don't have any issues at all when it comes to relationships with colleagues. Because they're all very lovely. It was a very peaceful environment.” Dr Akwuobi says.  “When you’re not working, there are all these things you can do. I have a neighbour who loves hiking so we can do all these adventures in the middle of nowhere! I got involved in a local football team. There’s definitely enough to balance your work and life.” Dr Akwuobi was in Mount Isa for 14 months before relocating to Hervey Bay to complete work-based assessment required for full registration in Australia. He remembers his time in Mount Isa incredibly fondly and is excited by the prospect of returning to the region. “I don't think I am interested in practising in the big cities after my rural experiences. I would be very happy if I had the chance to go back to the North-West. It’s all dependent on applying during the annual recruitment campaign and going through the process,” Dr Akwuobi says. Traditionally, Mount Isa might not have been considered the ‘place to be’ for medical training, but the sentiment is changing. Dr Akwuobi’s positive experience is shared by others, like Dr Sally Magoffin, and they’re encouraging more doctors in training to discover for themselves what the town has to offer. “It’s a very good place to do your medical specialty training, particularly when it comes to emergency medicine. I'll say it is one of the best medical communities I've worked in. The consultants, my colleagues, the whole allied health team; were all wonderful. The whole experience means a lot to me and has really helped my medical practice,” Dr Akwuobi says.

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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.

Cairns region
(07) 4226 8187

Central West region
(07) 4764 1547

Mackay region
(07) 4885 7122

North West region
(07) 4764 1547

Torres and Cape region
(07) 4095 6103

Townsville region
(07) 4781 3424