Get to know the Exec Team

Earle Savage - President

Co-founder of STONZ & currently an Orthopaedic Trainee

What do you love most about your job? Constantly being challenged and the team environment that orthopaedics creates

Remembering back to your first few weeks working in the hospital, what was it like? Did it meet your expectations? I had just moved back from Australia were I had trained as a post graduate doctor. I started on Ortho at Christchurch hospital and had a fantastic team of HO who collectively we didn’t know much but as a group worked really hard together and by the end of the run we had a collective sense of achievement. My first oncall I got absolutely hammered and one of the other HO stayed to give me a hand with the new admissions. My team was on call over Christmas and New Year and we collected more than 50 patients over this period so I would come in at 5 am to check blood results prior to hand over. It was really hard but by the end of that run I really felt there was nothing that I couldn’t handle. It totally met my expectations and more, I loved the job and really enjoyed getting to see and do new things/pick up new skills.

Why did you pick the specialty you did & what’s it like being part of a training programme?
I had an amazing boss in Geelong who was an Orthopaedic consultant who took the time when I was a student to help me do some research and let me watch his operations in private. He also was interested in my personal life got me to come rowing with him and some of the other consultants in the mornings before work. I also chose orthopaedics because I love the mix of procedural, clinical and operative work that the job has and to be honest I love being challenged both by the job and people everyday.

Richard Storey - Vice President & Research

Orthopaedic trainee

What do you love most about your job?
So many things! The team work required in the hospital can be huge at times and when it all comes together and patients do well it’s very satisfying. Your day can involve a wide range of pathologies, anatomy, surgical challenges, surgical implants, surgical techniques, biomechanics and basic sciences meaning there is always something new to learn or skill to develop.

Remembering back to your first few weeks working in the hospital, what was it like? Did it meet your expectations?
I was grateful for the support of my registrar and consultant. I also recall learning a lot from the nurses, they are really helpful when they realise you are just starting out. It was challenging on many levels, working with sick and sometimes dying patients. Learning how to deal with this side of medicine takes time and guidance from colleagues. When you start out I think senior staff seem almost cold and insensitive to all of the sad/challenging stuff, but as you learn you develop skills to be efficient with your emotions and become more effective in practice and realise your seniors really care too, they just express it in their work.

Why did you pick the specialty you did & what’s it like being part of a training programme?Orthopaedics has a huge scope and on a daily basis I get to look after a full range of people from paediatrics to geriatrics and everyone in between. 

Why STONZ?
Specialty training is an absolute privilege and a pleasure when things are ticking along as they should. However, it is also testing, demanding, tiring and stressful, and in addition, it also falls at a very busy stage of life.

There is precious balance between service provision, training and fatigue in our working lives as training specialists. STONZ for me provides an avenue to find and protect this balance and make sure training as a specialist in New Zealand is the privilege and pleasure it should be and not a painful and tiring process that I have seen it become for some of my colleagues.

Blair York - Treasurer

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery trainee

What do you love most about your job?
I enjoy working in a well-functioning team that enables good outcomes for patients. I particularly enjoy the reconstructive part of my job, whether it be piecing a mutilated hand back together following hand trauma, or reconstructing extensive surgical resection defects.

Remembering back to your first few weeks working in the hospital, what was it like? Did it meet your expectations?
The first few weeks were a bit of a blur and scary but I remember everyone being there to help and actually once you settled in it was a good environment.

Why did you pick the specialty you did & what’s it like being part of a training programme?
Surgery for me is all about being part of a well-functioning team to get the best outcomes we can. I particularly like the applied anatomy that my job entails. Being part of a training programme is a fun experience. Plastic surgery is quite a small group in NZ so it’s fun to be part of a small group all aiming for the same thing.

Why STONZ?
I was a member of the RDA for about 6 years but unfortunately their ‘one size fits all’ model didn’t work for me. I joined STONZ after the first MECA was signed and have not looked back. I was tapped on the shoulder to join the Exec and have really enjoyed the experience. Makes you think about RMOs as a group rather than just your own niche group.

Matt Stretton - Former Training Representative

ENT trainee

What do you love most about your job?
There are hundreds of reasons to love medicine. There is something for everyone and you can do anything, anywhere once you start to specialise. The thing I love most about my job is the complex, dynamic and rewarding nature of caring for patients along with the continued pursuit of excellence in your field. There is no chance to get bored.  

Remembering back to your first few weeks in the hospital, what was it like? Did it meet your expectations?
Full on! It was a whirlwind of intensity, rushed lunches, late finishes and a lot of memories, happy and sad. Everyone is the same when they start, inexperienced and timid, but after a few weeks you emerge roaring to go. The nice thing is that no one can forget what its like starting and there is so much support around, especially the PGY2 house officers. 

When you’re starting out you’ll have a lot of ‘first times’, the good, the bad and the ugly. Everyone has them, you’ll learn heaps and at some point say the classic line ‘they never taught me this in med school’. Re expectations - To be honest, nothing in medicine is ever quite what I expect, to this day, so really I had no idea..I have no regrets though. 

Why did you pick the specialty you did & what is it like being part of a training programme?
I chose ENT for a number of reasons, but mainly the people. As a house officer and a registrar I was always impressed by my seniors and consultants. They really seemed to enjoy their work, were relaxed and approachable and really cared about there patients. ENT has a good patient centered care culture, as well as a good mix of acutes/elective and clinic from newborns to elderly with a mix of cosmetic/functional procedures to complex head and neck cancer care. It is a varied and complex specialty that keeps you on your toes. 

Why STONZ?
To me STONZ represents a union that offers protection and benefits to it members, whilst approaching the relationship with our employers collaboratively, keeping training and patients at the center of it all. SToNZ realises that not all RMOs fit the same mold and keep that central in the development of safer rosters and better working conditions.

Emma Littlehales - Early Training Representative

Surgical Registrar

What do you love most about your job?
I love the variety and the fact that no two days are the same. You never know what's going to come through the door, and you can make a huge difference in someone life very quickly. Even the smallest procedures can make a difference and I enjoy the practical aspect and getting my hands dirty

Remembering back to your first few weeks in the hospital, what was it like? Did it meet your expectations?
I started working in the UK, which was a very different experience. I remember being terrified but having a more senior HO to show me the ropes and hold my hand till I'd worked it out. It was a steep learning curve but very fun and a great social experience.

Why did you pick the specialty you did & what is it like being part of a training programme?
I'm not currently part of a training programme, and as a non-SET surgical registrar I rotate through multiple specialties. I'm hoping to enter plastics as I enjoy the fine detail work and problem solving aspects. You can operate on all ages, all body areas and all levels of acuity.

Why STONZ?
I worked in a system in the UK where juniors worked a 70 hour week to get the required experience for elective surgery, but were only paid for 48. I want to make sure the New Zealand trainees get the required experience to become consultants in a safe way, whilst still being recognised and compensated for the hard work they do. I want to fight for safe and evidence based rosters, which allow for enough training time to make safe consultants.

Jordan Tewhaiti-Smith - House Officer Representative

House Officer

What do you love most about your job?
I enjoy not knowing what my day is going involve every day. Being a doctor has its moments, however, there is nothing like repsonding to a clinical emergency on the ward and then heading down to theatre to assist the boss. The job of a house surgeon requires efficiency and its awesome having a team that support me so well!

Remembering back to your first few weeks working in the hospital, what was it like? Did it meet your expectations?
I remember being scared about the most simple tasks, and it took me a long time to slowly get more confident in the decisions I was making. Conversely, I remember being supported by my registrar and consultants and of course the rest of the team – nursing staff, alied health and adminstrators. My memory from my first few weeks as a doctorhas been mostly erased due to the late nights and absolute exhaustion. My initial expectations on myself was to make sure I knew everything. The learning curve out of all of that actually enabled me to see that nobody in the hospital expected you to know everything, and in fact, they expect you to reach out and make it known that you dont konw everything so they can support you to care for our patients.

Why did you pick the specialty you did & whats its like being part of a training programme?
I chose to pursue a career in O&G as its definitely not a hands off career. I am driven to do a practical job and one that produces some adrenaline at times. I think O&G offers fexlibility in areas of specialisation and also it contains very interesting medicine. I am not yet on training programme but I am about to step up to do some post graduate training to enable myself to commence training in the near future.

Why STONZ?
Because its aligns with my career plans and promotes a pragmatic and productive approach to becoming a good doctor. STONZ, in my opinion, is the union that balances career progression and life style in a way that I am comfortable with and I am confident that STONZ will continue to advocate for RMOs best interests.

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Contact us

Please get in touch with any questions you may have. We would love to hear from you.

E: support@stonz.co.nz 
P: +64 22 493 1609
PO Box 7050, Newton, Wellington 6242

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