It’s a word that for most of us on, or just finishing training has a distinctly positive feel to it, and I must admit my experience to date has been better than advertised.
For those of you that don’t know my background I am one of the original members of STONZ and alongside Heath Lash many years ago we felt there needed to be a union that had RMOs at the centre of the decision making. We shifted our focus to one that focused on being collaborative and proactive (something that embodies what being a doctor is all about). The reason I make this comment is because this is what the essence of being on Fellowship is all about. It is not just a technical exercise of learning procedural skills, but an experience that allows you to open your horizons to other perspectives, cultures and health systems which allows you to better understand the importance of the role you play as a doctor.
Currently I am on Fellowship at University Hospital Geelong (I attended Deakin University as a post-graduate medical student here) with the consultant who forever changed my direction in medicine. Originally when I decided to go back and retrain, I wanted to be a paediatrician. This changed when on one of my rotations I met Professor Page who influenced my career direction as he was the most genuine and engaged doctor with an amazing patient focus. He also had an appreciation of the bigger picture that we can play as Health professionals; and constantly challenged us even as students to do better. It was at that point I decided orthopaedics was my future and so coming back to Geelong to be his Upper Limb Fellow has been the culmination of what has been an amazing career to date. While over here, I have had the opportunity to travel and observe other surgeons, and more importantly had the opportunity to have some down time with family which was much needed after FRACS exams and training finished.
Fellowship for me has been an opportunity to collaborate, learn and be part of a different environment to one that I have been used to over the past decade. It must be noted that medicine in Australia is a very different experience, the hospitals are well resourced both with staff as well as their physical resources, and it has been nice to have regular elective operating without the dread of turning up and telling patients that they are being cancelled. The training over here for trainees is broad with good exposure to diverse cases and they have excellent protection for study and courses.
Initially when I arrived, I wondered if I would be able to return home to what I had left. However, the longer I am here, I realise that I love the commitment that NZ doctors have to their community and that the reason we find it so frustrating to work in the current environment is because we all care so deeply and take pride in what we do. Something I don’t think runs as deep in the Australian public system. I am coming to the end of my time over here and I look forward to my return home so I can continue to make a difference. It will also coincide with my stepping down from the Union that I feel has made the most tangible improvements in RMO welfare and training in decades.
My final thoughts are wrapped up in this quote from Steve Jobs who I believe understood the importance of free thinkers. "Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes ... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. ... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things. ... They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."
Earle Savage, Orthopaedic Surgeon – STONZ Treasurer