Dr Sarah Walker is doing a PhD in hepatology with the Storr Liver Unit, Westmead Millennium Institute, University of Sydney. She also works part-time at Concord Hospital in Sydney.
Dr Walker completed advanced training in gastroenterology at Westmead Hospital
Why did you decide to specialise in hepatology?
I have been interested in hepatology since I was a medical student, probably because I studied biochemistry in my science degree before studying medicine. I came to realise that the liver is where most of the interesting metabolic processes occur.
What did you enjoy about the training program?
Working in liver transplantation was a highlight. Before their transplant, patients are so sick that life has lost many pleasures, and receiving a liver transplant gives them a new life. It is very satisfying to be a part of that process. As a transplant registrar, I managed the patients pre- and post-transplant, and also managed patients who presented with complications of liver disease.
I enjoyed the satisfaction of knowing I had the
skills to care for such critically ill patients.
I’ve enjoyed my PhD research because it has given me the opportunity to focus on one area without the distractions of clinical medicine. I have acquired many useful skills during my research, such as identifying a valid research question and formulating a hypothesis. I have also improved my skills in finding and appraising medical literature.
It’s an exciting time in hepatology as there are a number of new medicines becoming available for patients with chronic hepatitis C infection. These changes have occurred during my training and are already affecting what we do in the clinic.
What were the main obstacles/challenges while you were training?
Working as a registrar often involves long hours and on-call. As a hepatology trainee, one challenge is learning to manage the patient with bleeding oesophageal varices.
What advice do you have for doctors interested in hepatology?
The best way to get noticed by your senior colleagues is to do a good job looking after your patients and be keen to learn. It is important to get good general training in internal medicine before you can concentrate on subspecialty training. It is also useful to find a good mentor.
What do you plan to do when you finish your PhD?
I would like to work as a hepatologist at a university teaching hospital, where I can combine clinical medicine with research and teaching.
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