Academic leaders in postgraduate medical education

20 December 2019
Medicine teaching staff share their career journeys
The University of Sydney School of Medicine employs leading experts in a broad range of specialist fields. Hear from some of our program directors about their experiences as clinicians.

Emergency medicine on a global scale

Dr Megan Cox’s career in emergency medicine has taken her around the world – from the Solomon Islands to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana.

Dr Cox says it is the generalist nature of emergency medicine that really attracted her to the field.

“It is one of the last generalist fields in medicine, along with primary care,” she says. “You are not limited to seeing just one subset of the population and you can work in so many areas, including global health.”

After completing her training, Dr Cox worked in various places in Australia and then spent a decade working abroad, including for MSF in Sudan and for six years in Botswana, where she helped develop the first medical school for the country and train the country’s first emergency medicine specialists.

She returned to Australia last year and, as well as working in emergency medicine, aeromedical retrieval and lecturing in global health, she wrote and now leads a new unit called Resource-Limited Critical Care within the University of Sydney Master of Medicine (Critical Care Medicine) degree.

The degree attracts both new doctors planning to work in emergency medicine, intensive care and anaesthetics, and experienced clinicians seeking to upskill and broaden their career opportunities.

“A lot of doctors are really keen to work overseas and this unit of study can help them develop the skills to do so responsibly, as well building their international networks,” Dr Cox says.

Primary health care: never a dull moment

Every day brings a new challenge for Associate Professor Rowena Ivers, a GP who has worked mainly in Aboriginal health settings for more than 25 years.

Medical student placements in remote NSW and the Tiwi Islands inspired her to undertake GP training in the NT, where she worked in remote general practices by day, and aeromedical retrieval by night.

Associate Professor Ivers has continued to work in Aboriginal health, as well completing a Master in Public Health.

“Working in Aboriginal health there’s a real multidisciplinary team approach and a focus on preventive health,” she says. “There are a lot of disparities, especially in areas where people haven’t had access to services, but you can make a big difference. There are challenges, but it’s never dull.”

She now hopes to inspire other primary health care professionals to gain a deeper understanding of general practice in her role as a lecturer in the Master of Medicine (General Practice and Primary Health Care) degree, launched this year at the University of Sydney.

As well as providing the necessary skills and knowledge for doctors seeking entry into primary health training, she says the degree will help experienced doctors extend their scope of practice, into areas including primary health care policy, research and teaching..

A fascinating career at the heart of medicine

Dr Clare Arnott has forged a career that involves not only treating acutely unwell patients, but researching new ways to treat Australia’s leading cause of death – cardiovascular disease.

Dr Arnott is a Sydney-based cardiologist who specialises in advanced cardiac imaging, women’s cardiovascular health and pulmonary hypertension.

“I love all parts of medicine but I have always found cardiovascular medicine fascinating. It’s an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives,” she says.

As well as having established the Women’s Heart Clinic at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Charles Perkins Centre, she performs cardiac MRI and cardiac CT.

On top of that, Dr Arnott co-ordinates the cardiology unit within the Master of Medicine (Internal Medicine) at the University of Sydney.

“A good understanding of cardiology is fundamental for all doctors,” she says.

Cardiology is among the units covered in the Masters degree, which draws on the most up-to-date evidence to expand doctors’ skills in diagnosing, investigating and managing common and important diseases.

The recipient of a Winston Churchill Fellowship, Dr Arnott is also a respected researcher and is currently working on cardiometabolic trials with the George Institute for Global Health.

“For me the best thing has been to be able to do a balance of clinical work and research. I love my patients and practising acute medicine, but research adds an element of continual learning and of asking the bigger questions,” she says..

At the forefront of surgical innovation

Australia has led the way in embracing a transformation in vascular surgery over the past decade, with a dramatic rise in the use of endovascular procedures, says Associate Professor Anthony Freeman.

The Sydney-based vascular and endovascular surgeon’s entry to the specialty coincided with a revolution in vascular surgery.

“I did general surgical training and had the opportunity to do vascular surgery at a time when innovative endovascular surgery was starting to take of,” he says.

“I found it really interesting in terms of being able to provide patients with minimally invasive solutions to manage vascular illness, and I took the opportunity to get involved.”

Vascular surgery is often “high stakes” as patients face life- and limb-threatening conditions, but he says it is rewarding because patients often benefit immediately.

Associate Professor Freeman is a supervisor with the Australian and New Zealand Society for Vascular Surgery training program, and lectures in the Master of Surgery at the University of Sydney.

He says the Masters degree provides a bridge between undergraduate teaching and surgical training programs, broadening doctors’ knowledge base and giving them a taste of various surgical specialties.

While technical surgical skills are important, he says doctors need to develop other skills to become a good surgeon.

“Collaboration, communication, leadership, situational awareness, and decision-making – these are the things that really set surgeons apart.”

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