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The year that was

Karen Burge
Med J Aust
Published online: 10 December 2012

Doctors reflect on 2012 and their plans for the New Year

Dr Eve Merfield, emergency physician/part-time rural general practitioner in Launceston, Tasmania

What was the biggest development in your specialty in 2012? Telehealth is a big advancement for remote doctors. It makes a huge difference to patients and gives doctors more support to manage complex problems.

What was your professional highlight? I spent nine months on Macquarie Island, as the doctor to a small community. I not only cared for 40 people, I was vet to 12 dogs!

What was your personal highlight? On Macquarie Island I saw half a million penguins in one colony, albatrosses flying overhead and elephant seals being born.

What will you do on Christmas Day? I will enjoy good food, wine and great company with my partner and friends.

What are you most looking forward to in 2013? Settling back into “normal” life and practice back home and watching my vegie patch flourish.


Associate Professor David Colquhoun, cardiologist at Wesley Medical Centre, Brisbane, QLD

What was the biggest development in your specialty in 2012? As my focus is prevention, the biggest development was seeing the data on initial studies into PCSK-9 monoclonal antibody. An injection once a month will lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 60% as a single agent or on top of background therapy. This is the next big break in atherosclerosis prevention. 

What was your professional highlight? I’m chair of the Heart Foundation’s psychosocial risk factor and coronary heart disease working group. We finally finished our statement on screening for and treating depression in patients with coronary heart disease, which we look forward to sharing.

What was your personal highlight? My daughter’s wedding at Burleigh Heads Beach and a fantastic reception afterwards at Oscars.

What will you do on Christmas Day? Fly from Brisbane to Adelaide then out to Victor Harbor to celebrate with my partner Georgie’s family.

What are you most looking forward to in 2013? My research unit getting out of the red into the black — we had a tough time in 2011 with flooding. Also, we look forward to writing up some of our investigator-driven trials on complementary medicine.


Dr Catherine Engelke, GP registrar and a director of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association, Kununurra, WA

What was the biggest development in your specialty in 2012? The ongoing development of web-based patient medical records. It allows medical records to be as mobile as the patients, which is extremely important in the Kimberley.

What was your professional highlight? I received the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners General Practice Registrar of the Year award. This was a surprise and a huge honour.

What was your personal highlight? One highlight was the look on the face of a 7-year-old Aboriginal girl, which changed from disbelief to excitement when I suggested that she too could become a doctor with continued attendance and hard work at school. Her mother told her that I was not only a doctor but was Aboriginal and had grown up in Halls Creek, so what I was suggesting really was achievable.

What will you do on Christmas Day? It’s a very special day, which I will spend initially with immediate family (my parents and siblings and their families) and then with extended family at my in-laws’ family farm.

What are you most looking forward to in 2013? Hopefully, a lot more of the same. I am blessed to have one of the best jobs, combining remote and rural general practice and emergency medicine in the Kimberley.

 

Professor Euan Wallace, director of The Ritchie Centre, Monash Institute of Medical Research, and director of obstetrics and gynaecology at Southern Health, Melbourne, VIC

What was the biggest development in your specialty in 2012? The 40th anniversary of the World Health Organization human reproduction program. Its work is based on five themes: improving pregnancy, perinatal, postpartum and newborn care; providing accessible family planning and infertility services; removing unsafe abortion; reducing sexually transmitted diseases; and enhancing sexual health and health rights. The WHO continues to lead the way in global reproductive health, saving the lives of countless millions of women and children.

What was your professional highlight? Two years ago, Southern Health established Victoria’s first public hospital home birth service as a pilot program. It has been thrilling to see its popularity grow rapidly this year.

What was your personal highlight? It was a big year for my family. My daughter Ailsa turned 18, my wife Karen turned 50 (shh), and Karen and I had our silver wedding anniversary.

What will you do on Christmas Day? Our extended families live in Scotland, so we will spend Christmas Day at our favourite restaurant, on the 55th floor of Rialto Towers in Melbourne.

What are you most looking forward to in 2013? Many of the new therapies for high-risk pregnancies that we have been developing in The Ritchie Centre labs will move out into our clinical services at Monash.


Professor Ian Olver, chief executive officer, Cancer Council Australia, Sydney, NSW

What was the biggest development in your specialty in 2012? Some highlights were the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco, the government’s plan to complete the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program and moves to open an Office of Asbestos Safety.

What was your professional highlight? I published my third book, Investigating prayer — impact on health and quality of life. It describes the complex relationship between spirituality and the wellbeing and quality of life of patients with cancer.

What was your personal highlight? Attending my son Chris’s graduation from the Kennedy School at Harvard University. He completed a Masters Degree in Public Policy.

What will you do on Christmas Day? I will be at Carrickalinga in South Australia surrounded by family, including our first granddaughter Isabelle, who has just turned one.

What are you most looking forward to in 2013? Travelling to the Antarctic in January and photographing that spectacular environment.

 

Dr Justine O’Hara, plastic and reconstructive surgery registrar at Concord Hospital, Sydney, NSW

What was the biggest development in your specialty in 2012? The scientific reality of tissue engineering, which allows the growth of tissues outside of the body that can be used in breast reconstruction. These tissues can be transplanted with microsurgery, enabling multiple reconstructions without a donor site. This has enormous implications in reconstructing many defects.

What was your professional highlight? I passed my Fellowship exams in plastic and reconstructive surgery.

What was your personal highlight? The realisation of how fortunate I am to have a wonderful husband, a gorgeous toddler daughter who lights up my life and a job I adore and am passionate about. Pinch me?

What will you do on Christmas Day? I will attempt to host a gourmet lunch for my family while desperately hoping people don’t try out their new power tools or explode their barbecues, as I am on call for Hands and Burns!

What are you most looking forward to in 2013? My life will no longer be ruled by a pager! The year is full of promise with time on Fellowship in the United Kingdom, some quality family time and travel.

 

Professor David Brewster, clinical director of paediatrics, The Canberra Hospital, ACT

What was the biggest development in your specialty in 2012? The African bolus trial showing that intravenous bolus therapy for compound shock caused more deaths than using no bolus.

What was your professional highlight? Learning how to deal with behavioural problems in children in developing countries, where extended family, not doctors, deal with these issues. This was a new area of clinical paediatric practice for me.

What was your personal highlight? Attending the Multicultural Festival in Canberra as well as other cultural activities throughout the year. Canberra benefits from high-quality music concerts, theatre and cinema compared with other places I have worked in as a paediatrician, such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, The Gambia, small Pacific Islands and even Darwin.

What will you do on Christmas Day? Go for a long bushwalk with family at Pebbly Beach on the NSW south coast.

What are you most looking forward to in 2013? Going to Timor-Leste on a four-year contract with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons to train Timorese doctors in paediatrics.

 

  • Karen Burge


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