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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.

Find out more about training in North-West Queensland and the specialty training pathways available to you.

North West Queensland Region

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