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23 February 2024

A warm welcome to Orthopaedics in the Tropics

A warm welcome to Orthopaedics in the Tropics

Growing up in Western Australia, Indigenous doctor Tamika Ponton had not given much thought to a career in medicine let alone a competitive specialty pathway. But once she began the medical journey and got a taste for orthopaedics she was hooked. When she asked seasoned doctors where to pursue the specialty, one location came up repeatedly; Cairns, Far North Queensland.

An ever-popular tourist destination, the tropical city has a strong and growing reputation for its outstanding training experience across a range of specialties like orthopaedics and cardiology.

“Once I had settled on pursuing orthopaedics I began looking at the sites that have had a good reputation,” Dr Ponton says. “Every conversation seemed like it kept coming back to Cairns. Everyone had good things to say; the support, the extent of the training, the lifestyle.”

After completing her internship year in WA, Dr Ponton made the move to Cairns Hospital to gain as much orthopaedic exposure as she could before applying for the program.

“The junior doctor years before specialty training is about building up those skills for your chosen pathway. For me, it was about stepping up, being challenged to become a good all-rounded doctor,” Dr Ponton says.

Dr Ponton says the Orthopaedics Department doctors have been extremely helpful in ensuring she gets the experience she needs to set her up for applying for the specialty pathway.

“The scope of practice in orthopaedics in Cairns is really what drew me here in the first place. You see a lot of soft tissue and acute injuries, chronic arthritis and seasonal injuries given the tourist influx. Cairns is the first port of call for the region, and we are servicing a wide area of the Far North.”

Cairns is a long way from the small WA community Dr Ponton calls home, and that was initially part of her hesitation. But the warm welcome quickly made Cairns feel like a second home.

“Being Indigenous, I have grown up with a lot of cultural support, and I’ve always been on Country. Coming here was a bit of an eye-opener. I didn’t know anyone, and this isn’t my Country. But I’ve really enjoyed that sense of being part of a community, both medical and cultural, here. I feel like I’ve found my people, my home away from home.”

Dr Ponton’s advice to fellow junior doctors is to take the opportunity to experience a smaller centre like Cairns.

“I have not once regretted moving from a bigger centre! I’ve loved it and I am looking forward to the next stage of training here. You see a lot of the ortho doctors return to Cairns after required stints in other hospitals, which tells you something!”

The warm welcome of the Cairns community is complemented by many beautiful sunny days to help you make the most of life in the Tropics.

“The lifestyle is also one of the reasons I moved over here as well!” Dr Ponton says. “There are plenty of great areas to explore. Everything is there at the drop of a hat; you can hit up a beautiful waterfall after you have finished work for the day. That’s pretty incredible.”

Your pathway into orthopaedics training

> Entry requirements
> Training Time
> How to apply
> Frequently asked questions


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