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Dr Adam Wells

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust
Published online: 7 May 2012

Dr Adam Wells, fourth-year neurosurgery trainee, Royal Adelaide Hospital, and PhD Candidate, the University of Adelaide

Why did you decide to specialise in neurosurgery?

My interest in neurosurgery began in the 3rd year of medical school when we were studying neuroanatomy and physiology. I always had an interest in surgery, and I liked the challenging surgical problems and demanding procedures offered by neurosurgery. I also really liked the anatomy of the brain. At the time, I had a special interest in trauma, particularly head injury. It also helped to have an academic neurosurgery unit within my university, where I ended up doing two research projects before graduating.

What do you enjoy about your training?

I love the great variety of clinical problems we treat. There are new problems every day, which makes life interesting. The urgency of the work can be a big thrill; for instance, performing an urgent, life-saving craniotomy can be hugely rewarding. There are also plenty of opportunities to explore academic interests in neurosurgery. I’m currently in my final year of a PhD focused on developing a new surgical model for stroke, using sheep rather than the small animal models currently used.

What do you dislike?

The work hours can be very long. As a neurosurgery trainee you need to be prepared for extended periods with only limited contact with family and friends. The study and self-directed learning expectations are very high, and this is on top of the already long clinical hours and workload. Sometimes patient outcomes can be disastrous and heartbreaking, so you need to develop a pretty thick skin.

What do you want to do once you’re fully qualified?

I would like to do a fellowship in neurovascular or skull-base surgery, probably overseas. Overseas postfellowship training is encouraged in neurosurgery, with Australian graduates very highly regarded and travelling to the US, UK, Canada, Europe, etc.

After that I hope to pursue my interest in both clinical and research work. My ideal career would be to work at Royal Adelaide Hospital as a staff specialist with an academic portfolio, and continue working in my current laboratory with students doing higher research degrees. We are wonderfully supported in Adelaide through the Neurosurgical Research Foundation, and I hope to continue to contribute to the world-class research being produced.

Do you have any specific mentors in medicine, or neurosurgery specifically?

Professor Nigel Jones in Adelaide has been a lasting influence on my decision to enter neurosurgery. He is highly intelligent, an excellent surgeon with very good hands and a wise decisionmaker, and he has ongoing academic interests, is very professional, and is an excellent teacher who makes you think about problems.

  • Cate Swannell


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