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31 August 2022

Doctor finds opportunity in regions

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.”

Research and education opportunities

With the ultimate aim of getting on the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ orthopaedic surgery training program, Dr Mitrichev is further developing his surgical and clinical assessment skills while getting involved in Townsville’s strong orthopaedics research network. He has received a Townsville Hospital and Health Service Study, Education and Research (SERTA) grant to conduct a randomised controlled trial in Cairns and Townsville hospitals.

“The study will focus on pain from the tourniquet applied on the lower limb during procedures."

"We would like to know which method of exsanguination of limb before application of the tourniquet will produce the least amount of pain. This was investigated on the upper limbs but not described in literature for lower limbs.”

A lecturer with JCU, he enjoys the teaching aspect of his busy PHO role. “You have to commit a lot to orthopaedics. Apart from your clinical and surgical knowledge, you have to be a good manager, so you need to look after your resident, interns and also students,” he says.

“I have had the opportunity to continue my teaching experience, so I like to go around with students and show them some unique pathology or interesting cases. For medical students, we have a special education session pretty much every week where we present some of the orthopaedic pathologies or some relevant basic medical pathologies.”

Dr Mitrichev has been able to further his own education through opportunities such as The Anatomy of Orthopaedic Surgical Exposure Course, hosted by James Cook University College of Medicine and Dentistry in association with The Cairns Surgical Society, NQRTH and Queensland Health. The annual two-day intensive program in Cairns gives orthopaedic advanced trainees and aspiring trainees the chance to practise techniques in trauma and elective procedures.

The specialty of orthopaedics

“Orthopaedics is a surgical subspecialty looking after the bones, muscles, tendons, sometimes skin as well. It's a combination of the clinical knowledge and clinical decision making as well as the surgical skills, so that's the beauty of our specialty.”

“You also assess the patient and talk with them and you find a lot of feedback and satisfaction from  what you're doing because they are very grateful when they have a broken bone and they couldn’t walk or they couldn’t do their job and six weeks later they are back to their duties or at least they have an opportunity to walk again immediately. There are a lot of manual tasks using screws, nails and plates, and we use a lot of up-to-date technologies and do a lot of complex procedures.”

He says demand for orthopaedic services grew significantly during the COVID pandemic lockdowns and restrictions with an increased incidence of home-based injuries through renovating and gardening accidents. “It wasn't expected but it was something which we dealt with very well during the pandemic,” he says.

The path to North Queensland

After graduating from Russia’s Military Medical Academy in 2011, Dr Mitrichev relocated to Sydney to study English and learn about the Australian medical system. He completed a nursing degree in Adelaide on a graduate entry program, not initially knowing he could continue his career as a doctor in Australia. But after passing his Australian Medical Council exams in 2015, he made the move to Queensland on the recommendation of a friend.

Training at Hervey Bay for his first 18 months as a doctor in Australia, he enjoyed being part of a culturally diverse hospital crew: “At that time, there were representatives from 43 different countries in the medical workforce at Hervey Bay from the junior level to consultant level.”

A stint practising on the Sunshine Coast followed, then a move to Cairns, where exposure to unique orthopaedic conditions solidified his love of the specialty.

‘You need to enjoy your time’

Dr Mitrichev’s advice to new doctors interested in orthopaedics or other surgical specialties is: “Get as much experience as you can in different medical specialties, not only orthopaedics but anaesthetics, obs and gynae, any surgical specialty. It is still a requirement to do three core rotations in the internship, but also try to extend this broad experience in the resident program, second year post-graduation. Ask consultants, PHOs or trainees about their experience. Also, you need to enjoy your time … and you can see that orthopaedics people enjoy their work.”

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.

Find out more about Orthopaedic 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.

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