Rural Surgery Grants

Rural Coach & GSA Rural Surgery Grants

2023 Rural Coach Grant Recipient Reports

Dr Megge Beecroft

The Annual Provincial Surgeons Scientific Meeting has to be one of my favourite surgical conferences. As a country girl, who moved away from home to attend university what feels like an age ago, planning a career in rural surgery gets harder, not easier with time. Training pathways get longer, singles turn to families and so much of life happens right around you in the 10-15 years of medical school, pre-vocational and training required to get to FRACS. During this time, while our partners get jobs that they like, and kids hit school, we find that training in tertiary hospitals is exciting.

As trainees we have the opportunity to work with inspiring people, see cutting edge procedures and be involved in transformative research. There is a relative vacuum of rural training pathways, exposure to generalist skills and role modelling within current training programs. I have always found the PSA conference to be a great time, but this years was such a timely infusion of truly inspiring stories of people who have made a really big impact in their communities, of the development of new models of surgical service delivery that suits the needs of communities and multi skilled clinicians, and of new opportunities for academic and technological excellence from all over Australia.

In the lead up to exams, and as we prepare to ask another move of our families in search of more training it was such a valuable opportunity to reconnect with mentors, role models and trainees of all levels who share a passion for rural health and to fill the tank for the next phase with the promise one day we will make it home and the great things that can be done once we get there.

Dr Natasha Behrendorff

The Provincial Surgeons’ Australia 2023 meeting in Margaret River was a remarkable event, showcasing innovative approaches in the field of rural surgery. Among the many highlights, three presentations particularly resonated with me due to their relevance and impact.

Dr. Megge Beacroft’s talk on junior doctor burnout was a standout. It shed light on an issue that is becoming increasingly important as the time spent prior to securing a training position. Dr. Beacroft’s used the AMAWA Workforce surveys to clarify the extent and pinpoint the causes of burnout as well as provide realistic and practical solutions to try and fix this occupational and well-being issue.

Another notable presentation was about how nearby Busselton Hospital achieved the lowest in- hospital stay times following joint replacement surgery in Australia. This accomplishment is a testament to the efficiency and effectiveness of their healthcare protocols. This presentation was particularly useful as it an approach that could be replicated to enhance patient outcomes in other health systems.

Lastly, the virtual ICU service provided by metropolitan hospitals like Fiona Stanley to rural WA hospitals is a groundbreaking initiative. This service bridges a gap in intensive care access between urban and rural areas. The use of technology in facilitating this service was impressive, demonstrating a significant advancement in telemedicine.

Overall, these presentations were enlightening, showcasing innovative approaches and solutions to some of the pressing challenges in the surgical field. They not only provided valuable learning but also inspired ideas for implementation in our practices.

Dr Alex Britcliffe

I’m a surgical registrar hailing from Northern Tasmania, currently working in Lismore, NSW. I recently had a fantastic time at the PSA for 2023 in Margaret River. Alongside many interesting presentations it was truly heart-warming to spend time with specialists in my field and hear them talk of their passion for rural and regional surgery.

Having come from a regional area myself, it was really inspiring to listen to speakers such as Dr Mark Smith and Dr Peter Miles discuss how they carved out their surgical careers in regional Australia and Canada, and the privileges and opportunities that has afforded them. I also really enjoyed listening to the poster presentations of my registrar colleagues, and was particularly interested in the experiences of Dr Marcus Ong with his introduction of ‘Magseed’ in South-Western WA.

The cherry on top was the fantastic social program – of which my partner and I really enjoyed the Trivia Night on Friday. I absolutely recommend the PSA to all general surgical registrars and trainees – I will definitely be back.

Dr Nevin Chen

As a previous delegate, I was greatly looking forward to PSA 2023 ASC and Margaret River did not disappoint. Set amongst the backdrop of the beautiful lands of the Wadandi people, the conference held at Margaret HEART was a fantastic venue for trainees, doctors and surgeons to gather and discuss the challenges, innovations and novel ideas in rural general surgery. The social program including the gala ball were excellent and I was able to revel in the delicious wine and culinary delights that the Margaret River region is well renowned for.

In regards to the scientific program, there were many varied perspectives and insights from rural surgeons across the country. I particularly enjoyed the talks from Dr Peter Miles, and it was interesting to hear how the challenges and accomplishments that rural surgeons encounter can be similar across the globe. I will definitely be taking a few ideas back with me and employ it in my everyday practice.

Thank you PSA committee for the opportunity to present my research at your forum. I was impressed by the quality of the presentations and posters by my fellow delegates. PSA ASC is always enjoyable and educational and I recommend this conference to anyone interested in surgery.

Dr Pranav Divakaran

Margaret river was the perfect backdrop for the PSA meeting. It gave me the opportunity to travel to a part of the world I have never been to before and exposed me to a community of surgeons that inspire a practice of community led service and consistent skill development. I was able to present a regional based study that provided me with the opportunity to be part of a robust discussion surrounding the issue of salvaging acute surgical complications. I was able to attend the conference with my mentors from Ballarat hospital and reconnect with my mentors from Queensland. This conference is a valuable opportunity for surgical aspirants, trainees and consultants to meet, form connections and be part of a community of surgeons that maintain a robust connection despite the distance that separates the health services. The social events also were an excellent opportunity to mingle and bond with other mentors and identify fellow job opportunities for the upcoming years. I will surely continue to attend this conference in the years to come. Thank you for the opportunity to attend!

Dr Dhanushke Fernando

Having spent the majority of the year in the red dirt of the Goldfields, the water and sand of Margaret River was a welcome change of scenery. I came to the PSA meeting excited to present my research, meet friends and make new connections.

The academic program was stimulating and challenging. Listening to the fantastic work done by provincial surgeons at their respective centres was both inspiring and thought provoking, make us reflect on the work done at our own centres; areas for future opportunity and gaps in skills and knowledge. From Dr Weber’s presentation on CBD exploration to Dr Fry’s breakfast presentation regarding the great work being done with novel wound care techniques – I learned something at every session. There was ample opportunities for delegates at all levels to contribute and get involved.

I greatly enjoyed presenting my research and learning about the great work that others are doing. I came away from the conference feeling inspired and more informed; bringing ideas back to the handover room on my first day back in Kalgoorlie. Additionally, the PSA gave me ideas regarding opportunities to look for as I approach training, connecting me with colleagues to stay in touch with as the journey progresses. I sincerely thank the Rural Coach program for supporting my attendance at the PSA, and I look forward to attending my next one with much anticipation.

Dr Jessica Paynter

I travelled from Bendigo, Victoria to attend the PSA Conference in Margaret River and was fortunate to receive the rural coach grant. We had a great time exploring Margaret River – particularly getting a swim in at Meelup Bay, the Busselton Jetty and seeing the local wine region. The hospitality from the South West Surgeons and Registrars was fantastic and I had a great time getting to know them. From the academic side – I particularly enjoyed listening to International Guest Dr Peter Miles, and hearing the similarities between rural Australia and rural Canada. I really enjoyed the “How I do It – Technical Skills session,” and the particular nuances to achieving this in a rural location. The social program was fantastic and Margaret River certainly put on a show – highlighting the amazing culinary experiences available in the South West. Ultimately it was the people I met at the PSA conference that made it such a great experience. Being able to connect with other surgical registrars working across rural Australia provides an opportunity for reflection, networking and sharing of ideas. Thanks to the Rural Surgical Section for supporting my attendance at PSA, and thanks to Dr Jacinta Cover for organising such a fantastic conference.

Dr Phillipa Read

What a privilege it was to attend the PSA in beautiful Margaret River. The academic program showcased the ‘can-do’ approach of the rural surgeon and it was encouraging to see the collaborative efforts of rural surgeons, medics and allied health in the provision multidisciplinary care in rural and remote communities. I particularly enjoyed the Jim Pryor Begonia Prize session – an entertaining session which gave opportunity for my colleagues to demonstrate the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the rural surgeon. Additionally, Dr. Megge Beacroft’s presentation of her work on burnout was of particular interest and provided insight into what remains an increasingly important rural workforce issue.

The conference itself was held in Margaret River Heart – a fantastic venue and more importantly, closely approximated to a number of world class wineries. I thank the PSA committee and the Rural Coach program and look forward to the PSA 2024!

Dr Jenna Reeves

As a current GSET trainee, I am often asked “What type of general surgery do you want to do when you finish?” “Beachside general surgery” I respond. Having grown up in Broome, WA and spending a lot of my unaccredited years in Lismore, NSW, rural surgery has always been a big interest of mine. I recently attended my first provincial surgeons Australia (PSA) conference in Margaret River this year and I found it to be an inspiring, informative and thoroughly enjoyable conference. The academic program covered many topics important to the rural community and were delivered by esteemed local and international speakers. I enjoyed the conferences focus on the unique challenges and opportunities faced by rural surgeons and learning about the successes of how quality care is being delivered to different remote communities. The conference also provided ample opportunity for networking with its great social calendar (and being in wine country how can you not join in!) and relaxed atmosphere. Meeting like-minded, down to earth, friendly surgeons and reconnecting with previous mentors in a relaxed and fun environment was definitely a highlight. Overall, PSA is a great conference for any trainee interested in a rural or regional (read: beachside) career… or for anyone who really wants to have a great time with their colleagues.

Dr Nestor Sabat

Traveling from Mackay, Queensland, to the 2023 PSA ASC held in the beautiful Margaret River region was an absolute adventure with a backdrop of a beautiful sunset, hopping kangaroos, and stunning green fields. Each year I have attended the PSA, it has been gathering of some of the most inspiring, innovative, and passionate faculty in rural and remote Australia to celebrate the achievements and novel research in rural General Surgery, and this time was no different. From the first day at the Margaret River HEART, this intimate venue showcased a range of topics by experienced speakers that opened my eyes to the concept of dual-surgeon-operating and revealed an innovative piece of technology in breast surgery. Between these fascinating sessions, the discussion would continue relentlessly until we found ourselves at the back of a bus heading to a trivia night at the Swings & Roundabouts Yallingup. Although the Gala Dinner at the Tiller Farm was a lesson in exquisite cuisine a connoisseur would die for, trivia night was a particularly memorable bonding experience as a ruthless but friendly competition which ravaged the minds of surgeons trying to remember the country of birth of some of the most common surgical instruments! The warm friendships old and new, the magic of this magnificent region, and the beauty of rural general surgery found at the heart of this year’s PSA were treasures I take back with me as I await next year’s PSA adventures!

Dr Zhi Sia

This year, the PSA ASC has been held in a beautiful heavenly venue, Margaret River “The Heart”. I am very grateful for the opportunity, to have completed a poster and oral presentation. Credit to the organiser and convenor Dr Jacinta Cover – for allowing me and my colleagues to participate in this wonderful event. I have been interested in rural surgery since I was an intern in Lismore Base Hospital in 2018. I was greatly inspired by the surgeons that I have worked with, in particular Dr Austin Curtin, Dr Sue Velovski, Dr Sally Butchers, Dr Gratian Punch and many more. I have learned so much about rural surgery during this conference. I have noticed the importance of rural surgeons and how they have consistently worked collaboratively with the local community and providing their services selflessly. One of the inspiring stories that I have heard from one of the speakers was how the diversified culture come into medicine and surgery, and how they have been able to work as a team. Certainly, it has not been easy and people have been working together really hard and things have been improving over time. On the side note, I did not have any wines during the period of the conference but I am confident that I will be back in Margaret River one day to enjoy the winery.

Dr Cherry Talavera

The 2023 PSA ASC held in Margaret River, Western Australia reinforced the unique challenges associated with rural surgery in Australia and explored innovative solutions to address them.

One standout moment was Dr. Peter Miles’ insightful presentation, which shed light on the Canadian approach to rural surgical training. His perspective provided valuable insights that could be applied to the Australian context, potentially revolutionizing the way we train surgical professionals for rural practice. The emphasis on extended skills, particularly regarding caesarean sections for rural surgical trainees, was one such highlight. This expansion of expertise is essential in rural areas where access to specialised healthcare can be limited.

Perhaps the most touching aspect of the conference was the focus on palliative care and the collaborative efforts of surgical, palliative care, and paramedic teams to fulfill the last wishes of a young patient at the end of their life journey. This heartwarming example showcased the dedication and compassion of healthcare professionals in regional settings.

Overall, the conference provided a platform for knowledge exchange and inspired hope for the future of rural surgery in Australia. The conference was a testament to the commitment and innovation of those working to overcome the unique challenges faced in regional healthcare.


About Rural Coach

Since 2011, the RACS Rural Coach Program (RCP) has identified and supported more than ninety trainees interested in a rural surgical career. This has been through ongoing support, advocacy and the opportunity to build their rural connections by offering financial assistance to Trainees who attend the Provincial Surgeons of Australia conference. To find out more about the RACS Rural Coach, click here


Elaine Tieu – Rural Coach Program Officer
[email protected]