As spring approaches it has been a little bit of a reflective time for me. Often people have asked me ‘How did you get into what you do?’ and so I thought I’d tell you a little of that journey as well as some of the hiccoughs along the way.
Throughout medical school, I was fascinated with surgery. I always was drawn to the idea of using my hands as well as my head and had a huge amount of respect and admiration for the surgeons I encountered as a student. I had great grades in my medical school subjects but was also profoundly apprehensive about the notion of pursuing a surgical career as there was a big problem… I found myself either fainting or beginning to faint in almost every operation I attended! I wondered if I was
wired strongly enough to do the job! Fortunately, as graduation loomed, this issue seemed to fade away.
After graduation, I was interned at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney and remember my allocation to the neurosurgery unit. I was hooked. The patients were complex and amazing, the entire staff were inspiring and the unit seemed very loyal and cohesive. My work was valued and thus I worked harder and harder. I felt as though I had found my ‘home’. I returned later the next year and had a similar, fulfilling experience. The Department Head at the time encouraged me to consider it for a career and expressed his full support in my application to the College of Surgeons. I was so utterly grateful.
Unfortunately I had been commissioned in the Royal Australian Navy as a medical officer a number of years before and my application would have to wait whist I worked on active service.
I returned to Royal North Shore around four years later working in the neurosurgery department whilst completing basic surgical training. I fondly remember the advanced trainees I was working for and how they inspired me. I’m grateful now to count them as colleagues. My initial application for advanced training was rejected however I was successful the following year.
Towards the end of my training and after writing a doctorate thesis at The University of Sydney, I was allocated to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and met the most amazing mentor. His calm professionalism was truly something special and I was floored when he offered me a year-long subspecialist mentorship under his guidance. I jumped at the chance! Towards the end of that Fellowship, he again approached me and encouraged me to apply for his position as he was finally considering retirement. Should I be successful there was one condition… I must look after all of his paediatric patients. I was truly humbled that his confidence was given to me in this solemn task and felt truly special.
I have been in my current position going on 6 years and think of my mentor frequently. I hope that he is satisfied with the job I am doing of looking after his patients and aspire to be nearly as good.
How did I get here? Easy… I met inspiring people.